Coroners are independent judicial officers in England and Wales who must follow laws which apply to Coroners and inquests. Each Coroner has a deputy and one of them must be available at all times to deal with matters relating to the inquests and post mortems.
The interim Senior Coroner for Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire is Mr Paul Bennett. When he is not available, his work is carried out by his Deputy Coroner Gareth Lewis – both are experienced solicitors. Their offices are located at Coroners’ Office, North Wing, County Hall, Haverfordwest, SA61 1TP. The office is open from 9:30am to 1:00pm, Monday to Friday.
The telephone number is 01437 775001. E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of office hours contact can be made through police stations.
Coroners inquire into deaths reported to them which appear to be violent, unnatural, or of sudden and unknown cause. The Coroner will seek to establish the medical cause of death; if the cause remains in doubt after a post mortem, an inquest will be held.
Not all deaths are reported to the coroner in most cases, a GP or hospital doctor can certify the medical cause of death and the death can be registered by the Registrar of Births and Deaths in the usual way. However, registrars must report deaths to the Coroner in certain circumstances. For example: if a doctor cannot give a proper certificate of a cause of death; if the death occurred during an operation; if the death was due to industrial disease; if the death was unnatural or due to violence, or in other suspicious circumstances.
An inquest is an enquiry into who has died and how, when and where the death occurred. An inquest is not a trial; the Coroner must not blame anyone for the death. An inquest is usually opened primarily to record that a death has occurred and to identify the dead person. It will then be adjourned until any police enquiries and the Coroner’s investigations are completed. The full inquest can then be resumed.
When the Coroner’s investigations are complete, a date for the resumed inquest is set and the people entitled to be notified will be told, if their details are known to the Coroner. Inquests are open to the public and journalists are usually present.
Carmarthenshire inquests are usually held at the Town Hall, Llanelli but may be held at other, appropriate, venues when necessary. The Town Hall has disabled access and toilets but does not have refreshments, separate waiting rooms or telephones. Parking is available at the Town Hall.
Coroners and their staff will identify themselves by name in their dealings with members of the public. Deputy and assistant deputy coroners act when the coroner is not available. In doing so, they exercise the full powers of the coroner.
Anyone wishing to attend an inquest at the Town Hall, who have any special requirements (including, for example, facilities for the hard of hearing, translating or interpreting services) are requested to contact the coroner's office in advance.
The list of current inquests taking place for the Carmarthenshire area, can be found here.
Attending an Inquest
An inquest is a public court hearing for the coroner, sometimes with a jury, to decide who died, how, when and where the death happened.
Not all deaths which are investigated by a coroner need to have an inquest. You will be told when an inquest is required.
During the inquest the coroner will hear from witnesses and consider other evidence such as post-mortem reports.
An inquest is different from other types of court hearing because there is no prosecution or defence and only the coroner can decide what evidence to hear. The purpose of the inquest is to discover the facts of the death. The coroner's court does not determine criminal liability by a named person or civil liability.
Must I attend?
If you are asked to give evidence at the hearing, you will be expected to attend. If you think this will be too difficult you should discuss it with the coroner.
You do not need to attend an inquest if you are not giving evidence. This is entirely your decision.
The coroner's investigation officer dealing with your loved one's case will discuss the details with you, including the date the inquest is scheduled to take place.
Who else will be in court?
Members of the public may attend, and the media are allowed to report on proceedings. There are some occasions which may affect public access, for example:
- If the inquest might include evidence that impacts national security, then this evidence may be heard by the coroner in private.
- If the evidence involves a child, the coroner can prevent personal details from being released to the public.
Family members and friends are also welcomed to attend court to hear evidence and ask questions if they are unsure about anything.
If you are called as a juror
Most inquests are held without a jury, but there are times when the law says that
a jury must be called. This includes:
- if the death happened in prison, in police custody or another type of state detention (except if the death was from natural causes).
- if the death resulted from an accident at work.
- if the senior coroner thinks that there is sufficient reason for doing so.
These inquests can range from one day to multiple weeks - your summons will state the approximate length of the inquest.
Jurors for the Coroners Court are summoned the same way as they are for the criminal courts, randomly from the electoral register. You will receive a summons in the post approximately 6 weeks before the inquest is due to start. This paperwork will need to be filled in as instructed and returned to the court at the earliest convenience, but within 7 days.
How we use your information
Privacy notice for the Coroner’s Service
The proper handling of personal data by the Coroner for Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire is very important to the delivery of our service and maintaining public confidence.
Personal data is any information that relates to a person who can be directly or indirectly identified from the information. The terms ‘information’ and ‘personal data’ are used throughout this privacy notice and have the same meaning.
To ensure that the coroner treats personal information correctly, we seek to adhere in full to the requirements of Data Protection legislation.
This privacy notice has therefore been produced to explain as clearly as possible what we do with your personal data.
1. The purposes for which we use your personal data
The Coroner’s Service is legally obliged to investigate all deaths where one of the following applies:
- No doctor saw the deceased during his or her last illness
- Although a doctor attended the deceased during the last illness, the doctor is not able or available, for any reason, to certify the death
- The cause of death is unknown
- The death occurred during an operation or before recovery from the effects of an anaesthetic
- The death occurred at work or was due to industrial disease or poisoning
- The death was sudden and unexplained
- The death was unnatural
- The death was due to violence or neglect
- The death was in other suspicious circumstances; or
- The death occurred in prison, police custody or another type of state detention
We use your personal information to:
- Contact and communicate with you, this might be in the capacity as next of kin, witness or professional who may have been involved with the deceased person
- Meet various legal requirements and statutory obligations, specifically the Coroners and Justice Act 2009
- Undertake legal proceedings
We process personal data because it is necessary to comply with our legal obligations.
Therefore, the lawful basis for processing your information is primarily defined within the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and subordinate legislation. This means that the service has a legal obligation to process personal data. In addition, Article 23 (f) introduces exemptions from the UK General Data Protection Regulation on the grounds of the protection of judicial independence and judicial proceedings.
2. What type of information do we use?
We collect the following types of personal data to deliver this service:
- Your name
- Your date of birth
- Your address and contact details
- Details of any contact with you
- Any information relevant to the delivery of the coroner’s service
3. Do we use information received from other sources?
To provide this service, we collect personal data directly from you but we also obtain information about you from the following sources such as GP’s, the NHS and the police along with others
4. Transferring your information abroad
We use Microsoft Office 365 to process all of our electronic documents under the terms of a strict agreement, which safeguards your information. This personal data is hosted on servers outside of the UK, but only in EU countries which are subject to the General Data Protection Regulation.
5. Who has access to your information?
- Carmarthenshire County Council
- Pembrokeshire County Council (lead authority for the Coroner’s Services for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire jurisdiction)
- The Chief Coroner
- Assistant Coroners
- Dyfed Powys Police
- Funeral Directors
- Cemeteries and Crematoria
- NHS Hospital Trusts
- Public Health Wales
- Ministry of Justice
- Crown Prosecution Service
- GP Surgeries
- Safeguarding Boards and Teams
- Other organisations which from time to time, are involved with an investigation and who are required to provide evidence or assistance to the coroner
6. How long we will keep your information
We will only keep your information for as long as we need to so we can give you the service you need unless we must keep it for legal reasons. We will stop using your information after the case is closed. Under Regulation 27 of The Coroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013 your information will be deleted after 15 years, for deaths that do not proceed to an inquest, after two years for information relating to Treasure inquests and will be held indefinitely for information relating to deaths which proceed to an inquest.
7. Your Data Protection rights
You have the right to:
- Obtain access to the personal data that is being processing about you – you can do this by making a request using the contact details provided below
- Have any inaccurate or incomplete information rectified (corrected)
- Withdraw your consent to processing, but only where this is the basis for the processing
- Make a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the independent body in the UK which protects information rights
In some circumstances, you may have the right to:
- Object to the processing of your personal information
- The erasure of your personal data
- Restrict the processing of your personal information
- Data portability
8. Contact details
For more information regarding this privacy notice and your rights, please contact:
The Acting Senior Coroner-Mr Paul Bennett:
Contact details for the Information Commissioner’s Office along with further guidance on Data Protection legislation can be found on the ICO website.
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