Coroners are independent judicial officers. Each coroner has to have a deputy and between them they have to be available at all times. Coroners are helped by officers, who receive the reports of deaths and make enquiries on behalf of the coroner.
Coroners are appointed by the County Council for particular geographical areas. Coroners are usually lawyers but in some cases they may be doctors. They usually only act when the place of death is in their area. North Yorkshire County Council pays for the cost of the local coroner's service.
The coroners' service operates according to the North Yorkshire coroners' service charter. This outlines what standards of performance are to be expected in the coroner service and guidelines on what happens if something goes wrong.
In most cases a death will not need to be reported to a coroner. A hospital doctor or GP can certify the medical cause of death and the death can be registered by the registrar in the usual way. However, the police, a registrar, doctor or other person must report deaths to the coroner in certain circumstances. See the when is a death reported to the coroner? page for a full list of circumstances.
The coroner may need to investigate and certify the cause of death. The death cannot be registered until the coroner has decided if an investigation is required and if so, after this has been concluded. This may mean that the funeral will be delayed.
Coroners may have to order a post-mortem examination. A post-mortem is a medical examination of a body carried out for the coroner by a pathologist of the coroner's choice. Where a post-mortem examination has taken place, the coroner must give permission for cremation.
A coroner may also carry out an inquest. An inquest is an inquiry into who has died and how, when and where the death occurred. An inquest is not a trial; the coroner cannot blame anyone for the death.
If the death was due to natural causes, the coroner will inform the registrar and the death can be registered and a death certificate issued.
Medical records remain confidential after death. However, coroners are entitled to request medical information that is relevant and necessary to their enquiries.
If you wish to take the body abroad, you must give written notice to the coroner. The coroner will tell you within four days whether further enquiries are needed.
If you wish to bring the body back to England or Wales, the coroner may need to be involved. In certain circumstances, an inquest may be necessary. You can ask for advice from your local coroner's office.
Coroners also deal with finds that may be classed as treasure. See the treasure page for more information, including the rules for reporting finds, the definition of treasure and receiving an award for your find.
Coroner - Mr M D Oakley
HM coroner for the eastern district of North Yorkshire (the district council areas of Hambleton, Ryedale and Scarborough).
Coroner - Mr R D Turnbull
HM coroner for the western district of North Yorkshire (the Harrogate, Richmond, Selby, Settle and Skipton areas).