For crimes where someone has died in unusual or suspicious circumstances, the police will refer the case to the State Coroner.

The coroner works to understand the cause of death.


A post-mortem (also known as an autopsy) is a step-by-step examination of the body by a specialist doctor, known as a pathologist.

This examination is very thorough and helps determine the cause of death.

Post-mortems are important to understand the time of death and to collect forensic evidence.


An inquest is a court hearing at the Coroner's Court. It is not a trial, but an investigation to try and explain the cause and circumstances of a death.

The coroner cannot make recommendations about criminal charges, but will see how similar deaths might be prevented in the future.

More detail is available on the Courts Administration Authority website.

Getting support

Post-mortems and inquests can be confronting and emotional, so it's important to access support if you need it.

Social workers at the Coroner's Office can provide free counselling, information and support including:

  • initial grief and crisis counselling after the death of a loved one
  • counselling at key points
  • in some circumstances, support to view the body of the deceased
  • providing specific information about the coronial process
  • help preparing for an inquest
  • information about bereavement support groups
  • information about helping children understand death.