Before you attend an inquest, please read COVID-19 information for people attending inquests.
It is the duty of coroners to investigate where deaths:
The Senior Coroner for Berkshire is Mrs Heidi Connor.
The Senior Coroner is aided by her Assistant Coroners, Miss Alison McCormick and Mr Ian Wade QC.
Due to staff working from home, the office 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
Reading RG1 1QH
0118 937 2300
Phone lines are open 8am – 4.30pm Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays. Please note this may vary depending on officer availability; however, a voicemail facility is available and the office is also contactable by email.
If there is an unexpected death in the community, this may require police attendance. In these instances, the coroner’s own contracted funeral directors will convey the deceased to the local mortuary whilst further enquiries are carried out.
Where police attendance is not required, or a death is believed likely to be natural and/or expected, the deceased may be taken directly into the care of the family’s chosen funeral director. Should a later transfer to a mortuary for post mortem be required, this will be arranged by the Coroner’s Office.
A coroner’s officer will initially contact the deceased’s registered GP or (treating hospital doctor if applicable) in order 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.
If a cause of death cannot be established by a medical professional, the coroner will authorise a post mortem examination.
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.
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. 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.
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, please note the cause of death may be pending for a number of 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 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:
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.