Manchester South Coroner's service
Last updated 23 February 2024
4. Information for witnesses
Why you may be asked to be a witness for a Coroner
A Coroner must investigate all deaths that may be unnatural or where the deceased was in state detention at the time of their death.
If you witnessed events surrounding a death that the Coroner’s investigating you may be asked to give evidence at their Inquest. If you are required to attend an Inquest to give evidence the Coroner’s Office will write to you, your witness summons will confirm the date and time you are required to attend. Your letter will clearly state if the Coroner expects the Inquest to last for more than one day. It is a legal requirement for you to attend an Inquest therefore you must attend to on the date and at the time stated in the witness summons issued to you. Please make sure you arrive at least 15 minutes before the hearing is due to start, you will be required to stay the length of the hearing unless dismissed by the Coroner. If you are unable to attend the Inquest please contact the Coroner’s Office as soon as possible. Please note you may be required to provide proof as to why you are unable to attend such as flight bookings and medical letters. The Coroner will make a decision about what to do in those circumstances.
Providing a witness statement for the Coroner
When you are asked to provide a witness statement to the Coroner you should write your statement in plain English, explaining any technical and/or medical terminology.
What should a witness statement include?
All witness statements should address any known concerns raised by the family and include details of:
- your current professional position
- your professional position at the time you were treating the deceased
- your qualifications
- the full chronology of events leading to death
- the details of any assessment and/or treatment your and/or your team provided to the deceased, including:
- the place
- the date
- the relevant history at the point of assessment/treatment
- condition on assessment
- outcome of investigations
- the diagnosis (and the basis for it)
- treatment given
- any complications that arose
- progress and response to treatment
- your opinion on the likely medical cause of death, if you’re able to give one
If the Coroner concludes that your statement is relevant to their investigation it must be shared with any Properly Interested Person that asks for it, this may be in advance of or during the Inquest itself.
Guidance on giving evidence at an inquest
Witnesses usually give evidence from the witness box at the front of court near the Coroner. All witnesses must swear on oath to tell the truth at the start of giving their evidence. It’s a criminal offence to lie when giving evidence under oath in a Coroner’s Court.
Any evidence should be given in plain English, explaining any technical and/or medical terminology. The Coroner will be the first person to ask each witness questions, and will ask most of the questions. Other people may ask questions too, but the questions may only be about who the deceased was, and how, when and where they died.
Claiming travel expenses for attending an Inquest
If you are a witness at a Coroner’s Inquest you are entitled to claim travel expenses, these will be paid in accordance with the following:
When travelling by public transport:
- you will only be refunded up to the cost of the economy fare for the journey (unless the Coroner agrees otherwise)
Where travel is by taxi or other privately hired vehicle:
- you may only make a claim if the Coroner is satisfied that no alternative public transport was available
- you will only be paid expenses that the coroner believes are reasonable.
Where travel is by private transport (such as your own car or bicycle):
- you may claim any reasonable parking fees and claim mileage expenses
Download the witness expense form (PDF 206KB).