Family Info

Family information

What’s the role of the Coroner?

The Coroner is appointed by the Ministry of Justice on advice from the Local Authority (council) and the Coroners Society.

The Coroner is a servant of the Crown and receives guidance from the Chief Coroner and the Coroner’s Society on good practice and changes to practice.

The main purpose of the Coroner is to determine:

  • The identity of the deceased
  • Where they died
  • When they died
  • How they died

The first three are fairly straight forward – the last, how the person died, often causes issues for families.

Who else works for the Coroner?

Coroners employ Coroners Officers to investigate and recommend to the Coroner.

There are a number of Coroners offices in a Coroners Jurisdiction. They are usually ex -police employees. In some areas they are Police employees and on occasions are serving police officers.

They are the conduit between the family and the Coroner. The Coroner will not speak directly to families.

The Coroners Officers are often inundated by telephone calls from different members of the family.

This causes a delay in progressing the case as they are engaged in answering calls from different individuals for the same case.

It is advisable for families to appoint a Single Point of Contact for all dealings with Coroners Officers – this person should be well briefed in respect of the case including the medical history of the deceased.

Who can give a cause of death?

Any medically qualified person who was responsible for the medical care of the deceased can give a cause of death.

Usually this is the GP

If the GP hasn’t seen the deceased for a period of time there may be reluctance to do this.

However under new guidance this is not a restriction, if the deceased was ill and under treatment then the GP can give a cause of death based on a balance of probability and known history – determining a cause of death does not need to be beyond all reasonable doubt.

What will happen if the GP doesn’t give a cause of death?

In these circumstances the Coroner has no choice but to opt for a post mortem in order to determine what the cause of death was.

Does this mean the Post Mortem has to be an intrusive procedure?

No. The family can make representations.

There are now PM Imaging facilities available across England.

Centres are open in Sheffield and Bradford.

Imaging procedures are also carried out in Manchester, Leicestershire, Oxford and some London Boroughs

How do we get a virtual autopsy?

Firstly the Coroner has got to agree that the case is suitable.

The Chief Coroner has issued guidance which instructs Coroners on how to deal with these matters.

If the Coroner agrees then the Coroners Officer will be instructed to make arrangements through service providers such as Igene to carry out this procedure.

If you want a virtual autopsy the contact the Saad Foundation and we can help.

What happens after the virtual autopsy procedure?

If a cause of death is identified and the Coroner is satisfied then there will be no further investigation and the body will be released to the family.

If a cause of death isn’t identified then the Coroner will revert to an intrusive post mortem.

What can the family do in these circumstances?

The family can still make representation and ask for the findings of the virtual autopsy to be taken into consideration. In this way the intrusive post mortem can be minimised. For example if the imaging procedure doesn’t find any issues in the brain/head then there is no reason why the intrusive post mortem needs to include an exploration of the head.

What happens if the intrusive PM doesn’t find a cause of death?

In these circumstances the Coroner will usually hold an inquest at a later date.

In the meantime the body will be released to the family – as long as the circumstances are not suspicious or criminal.

The inquest is a procedure where the Coroner sits in a court environment listening to all the evidence from experts.

At the end of this the Coroner determines the most likely cause of death – this is based on a balance of probabilities.

What is the cost of a Virtual Autopsy and who pays?

This varies from provider to provider.

Services in Manchester cost £750

Igene charge £450 but only if a cause of death is identified. Otherwise there is no cost.

The cost always lies with the family.

This is agreed prior to the procedure.

Does imaging work or is it just a fad?

Imaging does work. There is a success rate of over 85%.

The procedure is always developing and improving.

This is based on evidential research carried out by Pathologists and radiologists – funded by the Department of Health over the past 10years.

Manchester developed this procedure through MRI scanning 20years ago.

Igene are now progressing the availability of these services by investing millions across the UK. Eventually they will have 18 imaging centres open providing services to all communities.

If this didn’t work then a private sector company wouldn’t be investing millions where the business case wasn’t good!

If you want to read more on the evidence base then visit our Information for Professionals section.

How do we get a Virtual Autopsy?

Contact any of the below organisations for advice:

Saad Foundation (Ramzan Mohayuddin)

Bolton Council of mosques (Mohammad Mogera)

Igene – Medico Legal Centre, Sheffield.


Bolton Council of Mosques WESITE

Coroners Society WEBSITE

Oxford MIA Family information

Oxford MIA protocol

Family testimony

Muslim Death Guide

Jewish Death Guide