Manchester South Coroner's service

3. Information for families

Why is the coroner involved?

The Manchester South Coroner Service will look into the death of a person if they have died within the Manchester South area (which consists of the Metropolitan Boroughs of Stockport, Tameside and Trafford) and:

  • the cause of death is unknown
  • the cause of death is unnatural; or
  • the deceased was in state detention, for example police custody, at the time of their death

The Police, hospital bereavement services, individual GPs and Hospice Doctors will refer a death to the Coroner when necessary. They will provide the Coroner with information about the death, the identity of the deceased and their next of kin (if known).

A member of the Coroner’s staff will contact the deceased’s next of kin in the days following the referral to:

  • update them as to the Coroner’s enquiries
  • discuss any concerns they may have in relation to the cause of death; and
  • offer guidance through the Coronial process

In certain cases a Doctor may be able to issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death and, following the Coroner making initial enquiries, no further investigations will be required and the relevant paperwork will be issued to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the area where the deceased died and the death can be registered.

However, if a doctor cannot say what the likely cause of death was or did not treat the deceased during their last illness, the Coroner will decide as to what investigations, such as a post-mortem examination or Coroner’s Inquest, are needed and the next of kin will be updated.

Post-mortems

A post-mortem examination will be required if a doctor cannot say what was the likely cause of death.

A post-mortem examination will be conducted by way of a physical examination carried out by a Pathologist. However, in some cases a CT scan may be possible, this will be discussed on a case by case basis with the next of kin. Please note that a CT scan will incur a cost.

If the deceased was not in state detention at the time of their death and the post-mortem examination reveals a natural cause of death the Coroner will issue a Form B to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the area where the deceased died, this will enable the death to be registered.

If the post-mortem examination does not provide a cause of death then a Coroner’s Investigation or Coroner’s Inquest will be required. The Coroner will carry out further investigations which may include, but not limited to, medical tests and collecting evidence from witnesses.

Results following Post-mortem Examination and Final Post-mortem Reports

The deceased’s next of kin are usually told the results of the post-mortem within 24 hours of the examination being completed. The Coroner will often be able to determine at this stage as to whether further investigations are required.

It will take a number weeks for the final post-mortem report to be completed by the Pathologist and sent to the Coroner’s Office.

Family members can apply for a copy of the post-mortem report by way of email or post and must include the following;

  • full name of deceased
  • date of birth and date of death of deceased
  • relationship to the deceased

Please be warned that the post-mortem reports are written in very clinical language and contain details that may cause distress.

What does it mean when there is a Coroner’s Investigation but an Inquest has not been opened?

In some cases where a post-mortem has been carried out, but a cause of death was not established the pathologist who conducts the post-mortem may undertake further tests such as histology (small pieces of tissue to examine under a microscope), or toxicology (blood and urine samples to test for drug and alcohol levels).

As these tests can take a number of weeks the Coroner will open an Investigation which allows the deceased to be released to the appointed Funeral Director so the funeral arrangements can take place an Interim Death Certificate issued to the next of kin for administration purposes.

When the Pathologist’s report is received the Coroner will the make a decision as to whether the Investigation can be discontinued, if so Form B will be issued to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the area where the deceased died, this will enable the death to be registered.

If the Coroner is unable to discontinue the Investigation and there is still a suggestion that the cause of death is unnatural or the cause of death remains unascertained the Coroner will then open an Inquest.

Why is a Coroner’s inquest needed?

A Coroner will hold an inquest if:

  • they're not satisfied about the cause of death
  • they're concerned that the death was not natural
  • the deceased was in detention (including state detention under the Mental Health Act) at the time of their death

The inquest process is a fact-finding, rather than fault-finding, process to help the Coroner establish the cause of death and the appropriate legal conclusion. In an inquest there is no indictment, no prosecution, no defence and no trial.

The 4 questions the Coroner considers as part of the Inquest are:

  1. Who the deceased was?
  2. Where they died?
  3. When they died?
  4. How the death occurred?

How the death occurred is usually the focus of the inquest and is also referred to as ‘by what means’ the death occurred.

Properly Interested Persons (also known as PIPS) are people who are entitled ask the witnesses questions at the Inquest, they are also entitled to be legally represented at the Inquest or any Pre Inquest Review hearings. However, most Inquests are conducted without any lawyers being involved.

At the end of the Inquest the Coroner will complete a ‘Record of Inquest’, this contains details about the deceased for the purposes of registering of the death and will be sent to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in the area where the deceased died.

Interim Certificates of Cause of Death

The Coroner will issue a Coroner’s Interim Certificate of Death once an Inquest has been opened or an Investigation formally commenced. This allows the funeral to be organised and enable administration of the estate to take place.

The death cannot be registered when there is an open Investigation or Inquest, a final death certificate can be obtained after the Investigation or Inquest has been concluded.

Removing a body out of England

If you want to remove a body out of England and they have died within the Manchester South area you'll need to request this from the Coroner by way of an Out of England (Form 104) application.

To apply to remove a body you'll need to complete a Form 104, Form of Notice to a Coroner of Intention to Remove a Body out of England (PDF 55Kb.

The Form 104 can also be obtained from this from the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the area where the deceased died.

If the death is not being investigated by the Coroner and your application is approved, the Coroner will issue a Form 103 to your funeral director granting permission to remove the body, this will usually be within 1 to 2 working days of the Form 104 being submitted to the Coroner.

You should not make travel arrangements until your funeral director has received the Form 103 from the Coroner.

If the death is being investigated then it will take longer for the Form 103 to be issued, especially in cases where a post mortem examination is required.

Please note: there are no restrictions on moving a body within England and Wales.