What is a Coroner?

His Majesty’s (HM) Coroners are independent judicial office holders.  They are appointed directly by the Crown, having qualifications and extensive experience as a lawyer or medical doctor. 

Who is the Coroner?

HM Senior Coroner for the district of Manchester West is Mr Timothy Brennand.  The district covers the expansive area of Bolton, Salford, Wigan and Leigh.  The Senior Coroner is directly supported by two Area Coroners together with several Assistant Coroners who are qualified in the same way as the Senior Coroner.  They have the same authority as a Senior Coroner when dealing with deaths and hearing inquests.  

Coroners and the Local Authority

Coroners are members of the judiciary and are not employed by the Local Authority. However, the Local Authority does fund the Coroner's service and the office staff are Local Authority employees.  This is why the Manchester West Coroner's Service is part of the Local Authority.

What is their role?

The Coroner has a duty to investigate a death if:

  • The Coroner is made aware that the body is lying within that coroner’s area, and
  • The Coroner has reason to suspect that:
  • The cause of death is unknown; or
  • The cause of death is violent or unnatural; or
  • The deceased was in a state of detention, eg police custody, at the time of their death.

The investigation may be as simple as consulting with the doctor who last treated the person who has died, or a post-mortem examination may be needed.  If a post-mortem examination ascertains the cause of death and if the death is deemed to be by natural causes the Coroner may discontinue.  However, if the death is found to be unnatural following investigation, in some cases, the coroner may open an inquest which is a judicial inquiry into the death.     

Coroners have the power to have a body brought into the public mortuary and keep it there while they carry out investigations.  For more information, please visit the Ministry of Justice website: Guide to coroner services - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Coroner is also responsible for Treasure finds within the district. For more information, please visit: Treasure Act 1996 (legislation.gov.uk)

What is the function of an inquest?

The function of an inquest is to record who the deceased was and when, where and how he or she came by the medical cause of death.

A conclusion is reached, and the coroner records the details needed for the registration of the death.

It's not the function of an inquest to determine any question of civil liability or criminal liability on the part of a named person.

Inquest hearings are heard in the Coroner’s Court, and this is a court of law.  The coroner can summon witnesses to attend, and evidence is given on oath.

The Role of the Coroner’s Officers

The Coroner is assisted in his work by a team of Coroner’s officers and support staff.  Officers will receive reports of deaths, subsequently making inquiries on behalf of the Coroner.  They communicate with relatives and if an investigation or inquest is opened into your relative’s death, a Coroners Officer will take responsibility for the case and will be your personal contact throughout the process.  

You can contact the officers by calling 01204 338799 or emailing coroners@bolton.gov.uk

The office is open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 4pm


The Role of the Police Coroners Officers

The Coroner is also helped by GMP Police Coroner’s Officers, who are specially trained to work with relatives, arrange formal identification of bodies and take statements.

If an inquest is opened into your relative's death, one of these Police Officers may contact you.  It does not necessarily mean that there are any suspicious circumstances.  It is simply that the Police have the skills and resources to go out into the community and gather information on behalf of the Coroner.  It may be that a statement is required to be taken or that other evidence is required.