The Coroner cannot find someone guilty of a crime. If, at any time during the course of an inquest or inquiry, the Coroner forms an opinion that a known person has committed an indictable offence in connection with the death, the Coroner is required to suspend the inquest and refer the matter to the Attorney General. It is entirely a matter for the Attorney General to determine whether charges should be laid against the person, and a matter for the criminal courts to determine whether the person is guilty.
Similarly, the Coroner cannot determine civil liability, although the Coroner’s finding may be relied upon in subsequent civil proceedings and/or insurance claims.
Where, independent of the Coroner an arrest has been made and someone had been criminally charged by the police for causing the death of the deceased the Coroner must suspend the inquest without discharging the jury pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, or the Coroner may discontinue the inquest altogether and discharge the jury.
Where the investigation leads to the discovery of evidence that results in a person or persons being charged with indictable offences in connection with the death. The Coroner’s court must suspend the coronial proceedings until the criminal prosecution is concluded.