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Investigation of sudden death by the coroner

A small number of deaths have to be reported to the coroner before they can be registered and before the document allowing the funeral to go ahead can be issued.

The coroner’s service will investigate sudden or unexplained deaths such as the death of a person in custody or one resulting from their occupation.

A registrar may have to involve the coroner in a range of circumstances, if one of the following apply and the death has not already been reported by someone else;

  • if there is no doctor who can issue a medical certificate of cause of death
  • the deceased was not seen by the doctor issuing the medical certificate after death nor within 14 days before death
  • the cause of death is unknown
  • the cause of death is believed to be unnatural or suspicious
  • the death occurred during an operation or before recovery from an anaesthetic
  • the death is due to industrial disease or industrial poisoning

Once a death has been reported to the coroner, the registrar is unable to go ahead with the registration until the coroner has decided whether any further investigation into the death is necessary. In the vast majority of cases no further investigation is necessary and the registration may be completed straightaway.

If the coroner decides further investigations are necessary he may order a post mortem examination to determine the cause of death or he may open an inquest.

If the coroner starts an investigation, but does not proceed to an inquest the coroner will inform the next of kin and on completion of the investigation issue a form to the Registrar.  The next of kin can then register the death.

If the coroner does proceed to an inquest, once the inquest is concluded and the cause of death determined, the coroner will inform the registrar and release appropriate papers for the registration of the death. Relatives do not attend the registration, but can obtain certificates if needed.  The coroner’s officer will keep you informed.

You can apply in writing, or complete an application form, for the certificates, each certificate costs £11.  Please enclose a cheque or postal order with your letter or application form payable to South Gloucestershire Council.  You do not need an appointment to apply for certificates, we can deal with all applications through the post.

Most contact with the coroner’s service is through a coroner’s officer. He or she will liaise with the bereaved and others following a death. They will normally be able to advise what steps are being taken by the coroner in connection with the death.

To contact the Coroner’s office:

Telephone: 01275 461 920

The Coroners Service for the District of Avon
Coroner’s Court
Old Weston Road
Flax Bourton
Bristol BS48 1UL



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