How the coronial process works

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On this page, you'll find information about the general role of the coroner and the coronial process.

The role of the coroner

Coroners are like judges. They are qualified lawyers appointed as judicial officers to investigate unexpected, violent or suspicious deaths to find out what happened.

Coroners look at and decide the facts about certain things to do with a person’s death, including:

  • that a person has died
  • who the person was
  • when and where the person died
  • how the person died
  • the circumstances around the death.

A coroner may:

  • start an inquiry to investigate a death, and to find out the cause and circumstances of that death; and
  • make recommendations and comments that may help to prevent similar deaths in the future.

 A coroner cannot start an inquiry to decide on civil, criminal, or disciplinary liability. This is because the powers that a coroner has are defined under New Zealand law, in the Coroners Act 2006.

For more information, see:

Coroners Act 2006(external link)

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Coronial inquiries and coronial inquests

A coronial inquiry is a process to find out the facts of a death. A coronial inquiry does not decide who is guilty of causing a death.

If a coroner believes they need more evidence to find out the facts of a death, they can hold a hearing in court. This is called a coronial inquest. At a coronial inquest, a coroner will hear from witnesses and consider evidence.

A coroner might not hold a formal coronial inquest if they believe they have all the evidence they need.

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