In a coronial inquest, a particular party may find significant importance in being able to appear and ask questions at the Coroner’s Court. Clearly, if the situation is leaning towards the Police or other agencies laying blame in the matter, then they should be represented. The reason for this is simple; you want to get your point of view across.
However, to be represented at a coroner’s inquest it is necessary to be considered an interested party.
Interested parties are also allowed access to the inquest brief prepared by police. This is very important in trying to assess whether, potentially, criminal charges may be faced at a later point.
The decision as to whether someone is an interested party is one the coroner alone determines. If the Coroner determines they are an interested party then they can grant leave for them to attend an inquest. The basic test being that the person has sufficient interest in the inquest and it is appropriate for the person to be an interested party.
There are several types of relationships that might give rise to sufficient interest and therefore allow a person to attend as an interested party. Obvious examples include:
- A person or persons closely related to the deceased
- The employer of a person killed in the course of employment
- Any person who may have caused or contributed to the death
- Any person who may reasonably anticipate that the coroner may make a finding adverse to their interests
The issue of appropriateness is not defined. Considerations are whether the person has competent counsel and what role they seek to play in the inquest. The interested party can make submissions to the coroner about who could be a relevant witness and based on the submissions, a coroner will decide whether that witness should be called.
The interested party can be represented by a lawyer in order to examine or cross-examine witnesses and make submissions.
Both interested parties and persons with a sufficient interest have a right to appeal to the Trial Division of the Supreme Court against a coroner’s findings in respect to a death or fire.
If you are interested in learning more about coronial, read on: