What is an inquest?
An inquest is an inquiry that establishes the facts surrounding a death. It answers the questions who, when, where, and how. The inquest is run by the coroner and held before a jury. It is usually a public inquiry open to anyone who wants to attend.
At the end of the inquest the jury will issue its findings and may make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
Though inquests are distressing, many families want to know how their family member died. This can be helpful in working through the grief.
When is an inquest held?
There are a number of circumstances surrounding a death which require the death to be reported to a coroner. In some of those instances, the coroner may deem it necessary to conduct an investigation to determine more information about the cause of death or the identity of the deceased.
If it appears necessary at the conclusion of the investigation, the coroner, with the approval of the Chief Coroner, will hold an inquest. The inquest will be held to
- determine the identity of the deceased person and learn more about how, when, where and by what means he or she died;
- inform the public of the circumstances surrounding a death;
- raise awareness about dangerous practices or conditions and lead to recommendations that can help avoid preventable deaths in future; or
- educate the public about dangerous practices or conditions to avoid preventable deaths.
A coroner will also hold an inquest into the death of a person who dies while an inmate in a jail, lock-up, correctional facility or other institution, unless the death was due to natural causes and the coroner is satisfied that the death was not preventable.
Who takes part in an inquest?
The inquest is run by the coroner before a jury of six people. The coroner has the power to summon witnesses. The coroner, the coroner's attorney, the jury and the family or a third party granted standing by the coroner may all examine witnesses about the circumstances surrounding the death which is being investigated.
Do family members have to attend the inquest?
Family members don't have to go to the inquest, unless they are summoned as witnesses, but the family may attend and/or may be represented by a friend or lawyer who goes on their behalf.
What are the findings and how are they reached?The findings of the inquest are the conclusions reached by the jury. They must include the:
- name of the deceased person;
- date and place of death;
- probable causes of death; and
- description of the circumstances of death.
Will the media be present at the inquest?
An inquest is a public inquiry. This means that in most cases the media will be present and will be able to report on the evidence presented to the jury. The media may also report the findings.
Inquest findings and recommendations
When an inquest is complete, the Chief Coroner will present the Minister with a report which includes the jury’s findings and any recommendations.
|Inquest date||Location||Deceased||Posted documents|
|March 2015||Summerside||Nash Campbell and Patricia Hennessey|
|February 2016||Charlottetown||Sherry Ball||Jury Recommendations|
|April 2018||Charlottetown||Catherine Shirley Gillis||Jury Recommendations|
Who can I contact to get more information?
Contact the Public Safety Division by calling (902) 894-0385 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org