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The Australasian Coroner’s Manual

The Australasian Coroner’s Manual

By Hugh Dillon and Marie Hadley

CONTENTSREVIEWS

The Coroners Court presents unique and complex challenges for coroners, lawyers and others working in the jurisdiction, as well as for bereaved families and friends.

This new manual, written by a leading Australian coroner and an academic lawyer with a special interest in the cultural diversity of death rites and customs, provides practical guidance not available in any other single publication in Australia and New Zealand.

The authors address the problems of:

  • Identifying deaths reportable to coroners and the over-reporting of natural deaths
  • Deciding the most appropriate, least invasive ways of conducting post mortem medical investigations
  • Dealing with objections by next of kin to autopsies
  • Responding sensitively and reasonably to the grief and concerns of the bereaved
  • Understanding and accommodating the diversity of death customs and funeral rites in a multicultural society
  • Selecting cases for inquest
  • Managing the coronial investigation and the inquest
  • Working with investigators and Counsel Assisting
  • Analysing accidents, human error and systems failure
  • Developing expertise in a wide range of technical issues
  • Focusing the inquest on death prevention and improving public health and safety.

A key feature of the manual is a collection of checklists, models, tools to aid decision-making and other practical resources that all coroners and practitioners in the jurisdiction will find invaluable, including thoughtful exercises for those new to the jurisdiction.

The authors also provide tips for advocates working in the jurisdiction either as Counsel Assisting or representing families or interested parties.


CONTENTS

Foreword by the Hon Justice Michael Wigney
Preface
About the Authors
Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

1.  Introduction
2. Basic Issues for Coroners
3. The Bereaved and Their Grief
4. Autopsies and Objections to Autopsy
5. Inquests
6. Mistakes, Accidents, Systems Failures and Countermeasures
7. Notes on Common Types of Coronial Cases
8. Aspects of Advocacy in the Coronial Jurisdiction

Select Guide to Resources
Appendix A: A Glossary of Terms Commonly Used in Post Mortem Reports
Appendix B: Sample of Coroner’s Introductory Remarks at Inquest
Appendix C: Sample of Coroner’s Warning to a ‘Person of Interest’ Concerning Privilege against Self-incrimination
Appendix D: Sample Precedent for Written Findings
Appendix E: Sample Inquest Findings
Appendix F: Sample Letter to Police Commending Investigator
Appendix G: Sample Letter to Parents of a Child who has Died of a Drug Overdose
Appendix H: Sample Letter of Condolence to Parents of Children who Commit Suicide

Index


REVIEWS

Increasingly, Coroners Courts are becoming a specialist area within the Australian legal system. In Queensland, the Coroners Court is now a stand-alone Court with a State Coroner, Deputy State Coroner, Brisbane, Northern, Central and South-Eastern Coroners appointed.
           It is timely that this text has been published. It provides valuable insight into and guidance concerning the Coroner’s jurisdiction.
           It is a compact, yet insightful text. It comprises eight chapters ranging through issues which include jurisdiction and what are reportable deaths, grief and loss and, importantly, cross-cultural issues that arise at these particularly distressing times for the families and loved ones.
           The text also covers the areas of autopsies and objections to autopsies, inquests, types of findings, common types of coronial cases and what is important for lawyers appearing in that jurisdiction in terms of advocacy.
           The book also has a series of appendices, which contain sample precedents such as written Findings and letters.
           The book throughout contains various checklists and tools/precedents which may assist the Coroner in decision-making.
           The text is an important and valuable tool for anyone who is involved in the coronial jurisdiction. ... it represents excellent value for money.

James McNab, Hearsay, December 2015

The work of a coroner is vital and represents the ability of the law to deal with death in a humane manner. It is concerned with the most human of subjects – death – but it is directed towards the living and ensuring, as best as possible, no repetition of those circumstances that led to a premature loss of life.
          A coroner is not concerned with all deaths. Statistically only a very small percentage of deaths come within the jurisdictional purview of the coroner, but those deaths are distressing and tragic. They often involve vulnerable members of the community – children, prisoners, people suffering a disability or psychiatric illness, patients – or they arise out of disastrous community events such as bushfires, building collapses and plane crashes.
          The Australasian Coroner’s Manual is a most important work on the Coroner’s Court jurisdiction. It benefits greatly from the fact that one of the authors is a coroner. Indeed, one of the strengths of the work is that it provides a significant insight into actual work a coroner does and not simply the legal aspects. The whole context of death and the investigation by a coroner is provided. In my assessment, this is soundly demonstrated in the chapters on the bereaved and their grief, and autopsies.
          For practitioners who may feel unfamiliar with the area, the work also has much to offer. There is discrete treatment of advocacy in the coronial jurisdiction. In addition, the work is replete with helpful advice about navigating a client through the trauma of a coroner’s investigation.

Richard Edney, InPrint, Law Institute Journal Victoria, October 2015

As the title of this book suggests, the publication is principally aimed at Coroners but will appeal to all those working and appearing in the jurisdiction. The Coroner's Court is a specialist jurisdiction which presents its own unique challenges and calls upon lawyers to exercise skills which those only familiar with the adversarial system may find perplexing. This book, co-authored by Hugh Dillon and Marie Hadley, provides a practical guide to coroners and legal practitioners who appear in the jurisdiction.
           The publication is comprised of 219 pages including an index and is written in an unpretentious and consumer-friendly style. It is a book which will appeal to those who simply wish to familiarise themselves with the coronial jurisdiction and to those who wish to have a ready reference book in court. Although the publication is slanted towards the New South Wales jurisdiction it will have utility to those working in the Western Australian jurisdiction. Read full review...

Raoul Cywicki, Brief, Law Society of WA, August 2015

The first reportable death investigation to be presented to a Coroner can be daunting if not done with a competent understanding of the legislation, policies and procedures pertaining to this type of investigation. The Australasian Coroner’s Manual is the perfect manual for inexperienced police officers or budding young detectives.
           [It] is essential reading for operational police officers and legal practitioners especially those who aspire for a better outcome for families and relatives following the untimely death of a loved one. Read full review...

Ted Bassingthwaighte, Police News, August 2015

For those who practise in coronial law (on either side of the ditch) or who simply enjoy good research and writing, this elegant volume is an important addition to a discerning library.
Here the mission is to provide a comprehensive guide to the coronial process, beyond an analysis of legislation and case law. In his thoughtful Foreword, the Honourable Justice Michael Wigney (himself no stranger to the coronial jurisdiction in a past incarnation) describes this book as ‘a tremendously helpful manual’.
            Well researched and comprehensive, it remains a slender volume, pared down to the necessary, like a careful advocate’s questioning. Beyond its disciplined scope, the resonant feature of this work is the humane and considered voices of the authors lighting the way in what can otherwise be a gloomy endeavour. Read full review...

Warwick Hunt SC, Bar News, NSW Bar Association, Winter 2015

This book is written by authors with an intimate knowledge of the coronial process. ... It is a highly practical guide dealing with every practical aspect of the coronial process from the perspective of the coroner and counsel assisting. It recognises that a coroner is a fact finder and that carries with it many challenges and advantages. There is sensitive guidance given on the personal impact that dealing with death on a day-to-day basis may have on the coroner through to how to deal with the grief of the bereaved. On the other hand there is a step-by-step exposition of how to conduct a coronial inquest that also deals with issues such as what to do when faced with contemptuous or difficult witnesses. This is an impressive work that will be invaluable to anyone involved in the coronial process. Read full review...

Queensland Law Reporter – 24 April 2015 – [2015] 15 QLR

   

Published 27 March 2015
Publisher The Federation Press
Hardback/240pp
ISBN 9781862879898
Australian RRP $99.00
International Price $90.00
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