This article covers key tips on howto prepare a statement in order to best assist the Coroner in the context of an Inquest.</DIV>
An inquest is an investigation conducted by the Coroner into the circumstances of a death. As part of the Coroner's inquiry he will often request a witness statement from a person who had some involvement with the Deceased in the period leading up to their death. If the deceased had contact with healthcare services, the Coroner is likely to require a statement from the healthcare professionals who were involved in the Deceased's care.
The role of a witness in the inquest is to assist the Coroner in the conduct of his investigation and this is important to remember when compiling a statement. If the Coroner considers that he requires further information from the author of the statement he may require that witness to attend the inquest in person to give oral evidence (this is covered in our next edition Being an Inquest Witness: Part 2 - Giving Evidence at the Hearing). From our experience, witnesses who provide the Coroner with a thorough and well written witness statement are either not summoned to attend the inquest hearing or, alternatively, they are better prepared for giving oral evidence. This article sets out key tips on how to prepare a statement in order to best assist the Coroner.
1. Keep it professional
This may seem obvious, however a professional look to a statement will not only make it easy for someone else to read and understand but it also helps you. You should ensure the statement is typed and appropriately spaced between the lines. This will make it easier for you if you are asked to read the statement aloud in court. Numbered paragraphs will make it easy to find a particular part of the statement.
In addition, you should think about the use of language particularly given the deceased's family are likely to see a copy of the statement or hear it being read.
2. Before you start
It is always best to review any medical records or other relevant information to refresh your memory or familiarise yourself with any key issues before you put pen to paper. This will help focus the content of the statement.
You should first check whether your organisation has a particular structure or template that they would like you to follow. If not we would recommend this is set out as follows:
Make sure you are entirely happy with the content of your statement. This is your evidence and it is important that it is true and accurate. It should then be signed and dated and sent to the Coroner with a covering letter. This should be with the knowledge of, and agreement of the Trust.
Keep a copy of the final version as you may need to refer back to this if you are subsequently called to give evidence at the inquest or asked to provide a further statement.
Top tip - Don't panic! If you are asked by the Coroner to write a statement this is because they want your help; it does not mean that you have done something wrong.
Our Healthcare team has a wealth of inquest experience. We are able to provide assistance in all aspects of inquest management including:
We can also deal with other issues which may be linked to inquests such as the police or multi-agency investigations, and helping you manage an internal inquiry or Serious Untoward Incident investigation.