Berkshire Coroners’ Office

It is the duty of coroners to investigate where deaths:

  • appear to be due to violence
  • are unnatural
  • are of sudden and of unknown cause
  • occur in legal custody.

The Berkshire Coroner is responsible for sudden deaths across the whole of Berkshire, and holds inquests at the Reading Town Hall.

Berkshire Coroners

The Senior Coroner for Berkshire is Mrs Heidi Connor.

The Senior Coroner is aided by her Area Coroner, Ms Hannah Godfrey, and Assistant Coroners, Miss Alison McCormick, Mr Ian Wade KC, Ms Katy Thorne KC, Mr Robert Simpson, Mrs Priya Malhotra and Ms Justine Spencer.

Contact details

As our team are not always office-based, our telephone number is voicemail only. This voicemail is checked daily. If you have an urgent query, please email noting URGENT in the title and an officer will contact you.

Berkshire Coroners’ Office
Reading Town Hall
Blagrave Street
Reading RG1 1QH

Coroner@reading.gov.uk

0118 937 2300 

Coroners’ process

Sudden deaths in the community

When someone passes away unexpectedly in the community, police may need to attend. In these instances, the coroner’s contractor, EMFS, will convey the deceased person to the local mortuary whilst further enquiries are carried out.

Where police attendance is not required, or a death is likely to be natural and/or expected, the deceased person may be taken directly into the care of the family’s chosen funeral director. Should a later transfer to a mortuary be required, this will be arranged by the Coroner’s Office.

Initial inquiries

A coroner’s officer will initially contact the deceased’s registered GP or (treating hospital doctor if applicable) to establish whether there is known natural medical cause of death.

If the Doctor can provide a cause of death in their best belief and knowledge, this will be submitted to the coroner for consideration and a coroner’s officer will contact the family to ensure there are no concerns.

If acceptable, the coroner will request the Doctor to issue a MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) to the family. Formal registration can then take place. If the deceased was resting in the hospital mortuary, authorisation will be given to ‘release’ the deceased to the family nominated funeral director.

Post mortems

If a cause of death cannot be established by a medical professional, the coroner will authorise a post mortem examination.

  • This examination will be carried out by a Consultant Histopathologist and it will take place at the hospital mortuary.
  • You have the right to be represented at the post mortem by a medical practitioner or another representative if you so wish.
  • You have the right to request a non-invasive post mortem.

Note: A non-invasive post mortem is only allowed at the explicit permission of the coroner and only on a case-by-case basis. This will incur additional costs to the family; this will require the deceased to be moved out of area; this may cause a delay in the release of the deceased; an invasive post mortem may still be required if the cause of death cannot be ascertained.

What happens after a post mortem?

A coroner’s officer will be in contact following the post mortem to advise on the cause of death or whether an investigation or inquest is required. 

If the death is due to natural causes, the coroner will authorise release of the deceased to be laid to rest. The coroner will also issue paperwork to the relevant Registrar.

A family member will then be able to register the death and proceed with funeral arrangements. There will be no further involvement from the Coroner’s Office.

Investigations

If a cause of death cannot be found at post mortem, or the coroner wishes to make further enquiries into the death, an investigation will be opened.

The family will be informed, and interim death certificates will be issued in lieu of death certificates from the Registrar.

If the pathologist has requested additional histological or toxicological analysis, the cause of death may not be confirmed for some months and the coroner’s office is unable to expedite this process.

If the cause of death is subsequently found to be natural, paperwork will be issued to the relevant register office and the family will be able to register the death. There will be no further involvement from the Coroner’s Office.

Inquests

Forthcoming inquests

If you are attending an inquest, please arrive at the Berkshire Town Hall at least 10 minutes before the inquest start time. When you arrive make yourself known to reception. Our court officer or a Coroner’s Court Support Service volunteer will greet you and take you to the correct court room. If for any reason you are running late on the day, please contact the office on 01189 372 300.

Inquests are required when a person has died due to unnatural causes, or due to natural causes whilst in state detention.

Inquests are public enquiries with the coroner acting on behalf of the family to establish the four statutory facts of a person’s death:

  • Who it is that has passed away
  • When
  • Where
  • How they came by their death

The family will be informed of the statutory need for an inquest, and interim death certificates will be issued in lieu of death certificates from the Registrar.

Families will be kept updated as to when the inquest will take place and will be invited to attend if they wish.

Please notify your coroner’s officer if you intend to instruct legal representation.

For further information, please read the government ‘Guide to Coroner Services’ booklet.

Inquests in Writing

Since 28th June 2022, the coroner was given the right to hold inquests in writing. This will apply to any straightforward and uncontentious cases in which a hearing in writing might be appropriate.

This will apply to inquests where:

  • Family and/or interested persons have no objections
  • No-one else provides reasonable grounds that a hearing should take place
  • The coroner considers that there is no real prospect of disagreement as to the inquest’s determinations or findings; and
  • It is considered that no public interest would be served by a hearing

These inquests will not have a set time or date, instead taking place within a given week. They will not be heard or recorded within a court and there will be no witnesses or attendees. The coroner will provide a written note of their conclusion.

The inquest will take place during the week commencing on the following Monday, allowing 7 clear days in which submissions can be made to the coroner for a full hearing.

If you have reasonable grounds to request that a full hearing should take place, please email your reasons to coroner@reading.gov.uk

For more information about the Coroner’s Service, please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-coroner-services-and-coroner-investigations-a-short-guide

Last updated on 11/06/2024