What is the Coroner’s role in relation to a sudden death?
- Receive a report of the death from the Police
- decide whether to direct a post mortem and, if one is directed, whether to authorise certain people (other than the pathologist) to
- authorise the release of the body
- decide whether to open an inquiry, and if one is to be conducted, whether an inquest should be held.
What is the purpose of a Coroner’s inquiry?
- that a person has died
- the person’s identity
- when and where the person died
- the causes of the death
- the circumstances of the death.
2· Make specified recommendations or comments under the Act
3· Determine whether the public interest would be served by the death being investigated by other investigating authorities
What deaths must be reported to Police and in turn by Police to a Coroner?
- A death that appears to have been without known cause, or suicide, or unnatural or violent.
- A death for which no doctor has given a doctor’s certificate (defined in s2(1) Burial and Cremation Act 1964)
- A death that occurred during medical, surgical or dental treatment
- Any death while the woman concerned was giving birth, or that appears to have been a result of that woman being pregnant or giving birth
- a death in official custody or care.
Where must a death occur for it to be reported?
- In New Zealand.
- On an aircraft registered in New Zealand.
- A New Zealand ship.
- An aircraft or ship of the NZ Armed Forces.
A person who finds a body in New Zealand must report that finding to Police as soon as practicable unless they believe what?
- Is already known to Police, or
2. will be reported to Police.
When must Police update the coroner after finding a body in New Zealand or receiving a report of a death?
Police must report that death
immediately to the duty coroner.
What steps should Police follow when attending a Sudden Death?
- Ensure safety.
- Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Check for signs of life. If alive, give emergency medical assistance and call an ambulance. If dead, call a duly qualified person to complete verification of death.
- Inform your supervisor at the earliest opportunity, that you are attending a sudden death.
- If the death appears suspicious, contact CIB and your supervisor.
- A duly qualified person should verify that life is extinct recorded on a VOD
form before the body is moved.
- When the deceased has been under treatment for an illness that has caused the death, the doctor who was attending the deceased before the death will generally issue a Medical Certificate of Causes of Death (HP4720).
- If the doctor issues a HP4720, the coroner does not have to be advised of the
death. Instead you must advise immediate family.
- Determine if the death is one that must be reported to the coroner and if so,
immediately notify the duty coroner.
- Complete the Deceased person notification (DED).
- It is important to consider your own wellbeing after attending sudden deaths.
You can either speak to your supervisor or Welfare Officer about how you are
A VOD should be completed before the body is moved. When this is not possible what must Police do?
Police must maintain control of the body until this VOD is obtained.
Why do Police complete a Deceased person notification?
This ensures that in the future no one can take on the deceased person’s identity for illegal purposes.
If you are feeling unwell after attending a Sudden Death where is support available?
Support is available to you under the ‘Trauma policy’.
Who is qualified to verify death?
- Registered Medical Practitioner.
- Nurse – Practitioner, Registered, or Enrolled.
3· Registered Midwife
4· Intensive Care Paramedic
6· Emergency Medical Technician
At what point can a body leave Police control?
It cannot leave Police control until a Verification of Death (VOD) has been completed. This may require Police accompanying the supplier to another location to secure the document.
If you are unsure of the cause of death what must you always do?
What steps should Police follow when examining the body and scene?
- Consider factors that may cause you to suspect a criminal act.
- Note the position of the body.
- Photograph the body, this is useful information for a coroner.
- Note all factors that may explain the death, e.g. the body’s condition, medicine bottles and items in the immediate vicinity of the body.
- Ensure you seize all medicines as some mask the presence of others.
- Obtain full particulars from witnesses, exploring any likelihood of anyone
else being involved, either maliciously or innocently.
- If the death is not suspicious, obtain statements as soon as practicable. Early statements may negate the need to re-interview later, and will provide the basis for evidence produced at a coroner’s inquest.
Who must homicide investigations be reported to and by whom?
Homicide investigations must be reported by the O/C case to the National Manager: Criminal Investigations, via the District Manager, Criminal Investigations.
When interviewing witnesses for a Sudden Death, are notebook statement acceptable?
What are some things to look for when you suspect a criminal act?
1· A death with no apparent cause.
2· Poisoning, but no known motive for suicide.
3· A body in a burned building.
4· Signs of injury inconsistent with an accident.
5· An apparent suicide in an unusual position.
Who has custody of the deceased’s body?
When a death is one that Police must report to the coroner under section 13 , the Coroner then has exclusive right to custody of the body.
Who can order the body removed from the scene when it is in the coroner’s custody and how is it done?
For the purpose of a post-mortem of a body directed under the Coroners Act, a coroner may give any directions they think fit about removal of the body. This is usually done by a funeral home arranged by the coroner.
When is it up to the immediate family to make arrangements for the body to be removed from the place of death to their preferred funeral home?
1· The deceased’s doctor is located and a certificate as to cause of death is issued, and
2· It is not a coroner’s matter.
What must you do if the expectation is that the deceased’s doctor will sign issue a cert of death but he cannot be located?
Do not leave the body with the immediate family. Consult the coroner immediately as to the appropriate course of
If the immediate family does not allow you to remove the body or allow you to seize evidence relevant to the death, what can you do?
1· Remove the body (with warrant), and
2· Seize evidence (without warrant).
How do I get a warrant to remove the body?
You can apply to a District Court judge for a warrant to remove a body from a specified place if:
1· A coroner has given directions about the removal of the body under section 20, and
2· You have reasonable grounds to believe the body is being held in that place contrary to the directions, and
3· You have used negotiation and all other reasonable means to have the body released in accordance with the directions. (s128)
Can I use force to execute the warrant to remove the body?
Yes, you may use reasonable force if necessary to enter the place and to search for and remove the body or prevent its removal. (s129)
Police don’t require a warrant to seize evidence but when can they use reasonable force to do so?
If you are:
1. Complying with a direction to remove a body under section 20, or
2· Executing a warrant for the removal of a body under section 128.
The evidence must be:
3· On or in the immediate vicinity of the body and relevant to the post-mortem of the body.
4· Delivered to the coroner.
How long do I have to inform the owner or occupier of the place from where the body was removed or the person whose possession or control the thing was seized, of the fact it was seized and where if was seized from?
5 WORKING days.
If a death is subject to the Coroners Act 2006 and must be reported, who must advise the immediate family?
Police assist the coroner by advising the immediate family as soon as possible.
When reporting to the coroner is not required, who must advise the immediate family and when?
Police must inform the deceased’s immediate family as soon as the deceased’s identity is confirmed.
If there is estrangement within the immediate family, what should Police consider?
Police should consider informing all parties and not rely on family members to inform other immediate family of the deceased.
What steps should Police follow if their is a death in custody?
- Immediately freeze the scene and ensure evidence including any arrest, offence or custody records including video recordings is preserved.
- Advise a supervisor who will:
(i) notify and arrange for CIB to attend, and:
- establish the nature of the inquiry required
- initiate any enquiry (Note: if force has been used upon the prisoner prior to, during or after arrest, a homicide inquiry must be commenced)
(ii) ensure the District Commander is informed immediately.
- The District Commander informs the National Manager: Police Professional Conduct of the circumstances surrounding the death.