Contacting and visiting the coroner

Her Majesty's Senior Coroner for Inner North London is Mary Hassell. 

If you want advice or information about a death that has been reported to the coroner, please contact Coroner Hassell and her team at one of the following addresses:

Poplar Coroner's Court (deaths in Hackney or Tower Hamlets)
127 Poplar High Street
London E14 0AE
Tel: 020 7538 1201
Fax: 020 7538 0565
View map

St Pancras Coroner’s Court (deaths in Camden or Islington)
Camley Street
London N1C 4PP
Tel: 020 7974 4545
Fax: 020 7383 2485
View map

Offices are open Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays:
For visits: 8am-4pm
For phone calls: 8am-1pm and 2pm-3.30pm

Inquests

Doors open 15-30 minutes before inquest. 
Please telephone ahead if wheelchair access needed. 
There are no refreshment facilities on site. 

Deaths referred to the coroner

Expected deaths

If death is expected, you should contact the doctor who cared for the deceased during their illness. If the doctor knows the cause of death, they will give you:

  • a medical certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be addressed to the registrar); and
  • a formal notice that says that the doctor has signed the medical certificate (this tells you how to register the death)

Unexpected deaths

If the person’s death is unexpected or you discover a body, you should contact the police. They will attend and can help find and notify the deceased’s next of kin and usual doctor. The coroner will be notified if:

  • the cause of death is apparently unknown; or
  • the cause of death is apparently unnatural; or
  • death occurs in state custody (police, prison or mental health detention)

The coroner may decide that there needs to be a post mortem examination, and then may later open an inquest.

After a death is referred to the coroner

When a death has been referred to the coroner, the coroner’s officer will try to call the nearest relative of the deceased (whose contact details have been passed to the coroner by the police or hospital) on the working day following the referral, to explain what will happen next. However, this is not always possible. Sometimes demand is very high.

If you're particularly anxious to be dealt with quickly by the coroner’s office, tell the police or hospital staff who are going to refer the death, and explain why.

Registering the death

The requirement to register the death within 5 days does not apply. However, the death should still be registered as quickly as possible, and within 7 days if it is not the subject of an inquest.  

  • if the coroner decides the death was due to natural causes, you will need to follow the normal procedure for registering the death
  • if a post mortem examination reveals a natural cause of death, the coroner’s office will email the appropriate document direct to the register office
  • if an inquest is held, the coroner will send the information about the deceased direct from the court to the register office, so you do not have to register the death

You will need to contact the register office to get certified copies of the death certificate, which are available at a set fee, details of which are available from the registrar

Post mortem examinations

This is a medical examination of the body, which may find out more about the cause of death. It may delay when you can have the funeral, so you should not book a funeral until a coroner’s officer has told you.

When a death is reported to HM Coroner, the coroner will consider carefully whether a post mortem examination is necessary. The coroner has the authority to make the final decision and, if necessary, can order an examination even if the family does not agree. If you are a close relative, you are entitled to have a doctor represent you at the examination. If the person dies in hospital, you may ask the coroner to arrange for the examination to be carried out by a pathologist not employed by that hospital.

After the examination, if the pathologist has retained any organs or tissue, the coroner’s officer will ask you what you would like to happen to these. You will need to make a decision before the body can be released. 

Coroners know that many families object to a post mortem examination being performed on their relative, and understand and respect the basis of these objections, be they religious or other. However, coroners must uphold the law and apply it fairly to everyone. Particularly where it seems possible that death has a natural cause, coroner’s officers make every effort to trace a doctor who may be able to certify the cause of death, though sometimes this does mean that there will be a delay in the release of the deceased for funeral.

Request a scan instead of an autopsy

Where death appears to be natural but the coroner decides that an examination must be performed to find out the medical cause, if there is a realistic possibility that a scan will establish the cause of death, a family can ask for a scan to be performed at their own expense.

Scans are not always suitable or useful. There are some medical conditions that scans do not detect. The coroner will consider the request carefully.

If the coroner agrees, scans will generally be performed late at night, when hospital staff and scanners are not so busy with patients. If a scan proves unsatisfactory, then an invasive post mortem examination will follow, usually very early the next morning.

The coroner will usually pay to remove the person’s body from where they died to the public mortuary or hospital for the scan or examination, and will choose a funeral director to do this. You can then choose your own funeral director to carry out the funeral, once the examination has been concluded and the coroner has given permission for release.

If the scan or examination shows that a person has died from natural causes, the coroner may issue a notice that shows the cause of death, so that the death can be registered. If you would like a cremation, the coroner will give your undertaker the certificate for cremation that allows you to arrange this.

Inquests

Coroner's inquest diary:

St Pancras Coroner’s Court (PDF)

Poplar Coroner’s Court (PDF)

What is an inquest?

An inquest is a fact finding inquiry into the circumstances of a death. It is held in public, sometimes with a jury. It is up to the coroner to decide how to organise the inquiry.

The coroner will hold an inquest if:

  • the cause of death is apparently unknown; or
  • the cause of death is apparently unnatural; or
  • death occurs in state custody (police, prison or mental health detention)

Coroners hold inquests in these circumstances even if the person died outside England and Wales if the body is returned here. If an inquest is to be held, the coroner will inform the nearest relative of the deceased (whose contact details have been passed to the coroner by the police or hospital).

Inquests are held in public, so anyone can attend, and interested persons (which includes close family members) may ask questions. Some families seek legal representation, but others do not and the coroner helps them to put their questions. It is not a trial, so there is no prosecution or defence. 

The gold standard for length of time to inquest is within 6 months of the death, but it may take much longer, and is generally at least double that time if the coroner is going to sit with a jury (almost always needed for deaths in state custody).  

In the meantime, the coroner can provide interim certificates of the fact of death. You can use these for benefits and national insurance purposes. Financial institutions usually accept such a certificate as evidence of the death.

Move a body out of England and Wales

Your undertaker will be able to help you if you want to bury your family member in another country.

If you want to move the body out of England and Wales (for example, so that you can have the funeral abroad), your undertaker must get the coroner’s permission. This needs to be sought at least four working days before you want the body to be moved. Sometimes, the coroner may be able to give permission sooner. After the coroner’s office has finished their inquiries, they will give your undertaker an out of country order. Part of this form will be sent to the registrar. Also, you will usually need to have two copies of the death certificate.

This procedure applies in all cases where the body is to be moved out of England or Wales, not just when the death has been reported to the coroner.

Coroner’s Court privacy notice

When undertaking inquiries, the court will collect, use and store personal information. This processing is necessary to enable the court to fulfil the judicial functions that have been vested in coroners by law. Coroners apply the rules in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

The court is responsible for certain personal information as a controller of data, when it is regulated under the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 which applies across the European Union (including in the UK), and the Data Protection Act 2018 which applies in the UK. 

The court collects and uses very little personal data of living persons that is not directly related to its judicial functions. It is principally data related to staff, most if not all of which is the responsibility of the data controller of the employing organizations: the Metropolitan Police Service or the London Borough of Camden.

Coroners will share personal information with law enforcement or other authorities if required by law or where it is necessary to carry out their judicial functions. Data will not be shared routinely otherwise.

The court will retain data for as long as is necessary and subject to the provisions of relevant legislation. Coroners’ files are kept for a minimum of 15 years, and occasionally longer.

You are able to exercise a number of rights in relation to your data, free of charge, including the right to:

  • access your personal information
  • require the court to correct any mistakes in your information that it holds
  • in certain situations, require the erasure of your personal information
  • receive personal information that you have provided
  • in certain situations, object to continued processing of your personal information
  • in certain circumstances, restrict the processing of your personal information

If you wish to exercise any of these rights, please send a letter for the attention of the Senior Coroner at St Pancras Coroner’s Office. If you are making this enquiry, it would be helpful to indicate in what circumstance and when you believe your personal data was shared with the court.

If you have a complaint about the use of your information by the court, please send a letter for the attention of the Senior Coroner at St Pancras Coroner’s Office. Alternatively, you can contact the Information Commissioner's Office.

Other information processed by the Court

Coroners collect, use and are responsible for information about people who have died. This information is not subject to the General Data Protection Regulation or the Data Protection Act or Freedom of Information claims. 

However, coroners must respect the common law duty of confidentiality. This usually requires the court to seek the consent of the next of kin before agreeing to disclose this information, unless it is given in open court for the purpose of an inquest, or to fulfill the court’s reporting functions to the Chief Coroner of England and Wales or to the Ministry of Justice. 

Coroners are governed by rules on the disclosure of information in relation to investigations and inquests under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Interested persons (which includes close family of the deceased) can challenge decisions of the coroner to disclose data in connection with an investigation.

Enquiries about data held in relation to a current investigation should be made to the respective coroner’s officer and for old cases to the senior coroner’s PA. Complaints about the judicial processing of data are likely to be heard by a Judicial Data Protection Panel.