Last updated 20 January 2022

Once the coroner has completed their enquiries and investigations, they will consider whether to hold an inquest into the death.

When a coroner is satisfied that an inquest should be held, the family and other interested parties will be notified and an online notice will be published on the Courier Mail and Queensland Courts websites (s 32 Coroners Act 2003 (Qld) (Coroners Act)).

A coroner’s decision to hold an inquest including the reasons is to be recorded on a Form 26 and provided to:

  • the Office of the State Coroner
  • the Queensland Police Service
  • any other agency that has provided reports to the coroner or conducted an investigation into the death to discharge its statutory duty (e.g. WorkSafe Queensland)
  • the senior family member
  • any other party who has made submissions to the coroner concerning the holding of an inquest.

When a Form 26 is sent to a deceased’s family, a letter should also be enclosed that provides reasons for the coroner’s decision and highlights that the family members have the right to have the decision reviewed by the State Coroner or the District Court (s 30 Coroners Act).

When an inquest must be held

There are a number of mandatory circumstances where an inquest must be held including (s 27 Coroners Act):

  • deaths in custody
  • deaths in care, where the circumstances raise questions regarding care received
  • deaths in the course of police operations unless the coroner is satisfied the circumstances of the death do not require the holding of an inquest
  • if the Attorney-General, State Coroner or District Court directs an inquest to be held.

When an inquest may be held

The coroner may also decide to hold an inquest for a reportable death in the public interest (s 28 Coroners Act). The coroner may consider any one or more of the following as being in the public interest:

  • an inquest is likely to help explain the cause of death
  • there are unresolved suspicious circumstances
  • publicity through inquest may help to prevent future deaths in similar circumstances.

The coroner may decline to hold an inquest if there is a more appropriate way to investigate a death (e.g. the role of a health practitioner in a death may be more suitable for investigation by the Office of the Health Ombudsman) (see Dupois v State Coroner Michael Barnes [2012] QDC 304).

If there is a suspicion that a death is the result of a crime, but police have not gathered sufficient evidence to charge someone, police may request an inquest so that witness accounts can be tested, and to require witnesses (who have refused to cooperate with police) to give an account. If a witness is compelled to give evidence to a coroner, they can claim the privilege against self-incrimination, which means that their evidence cannot be used in later criminal proceedings. For an example of evidence adduced at a coronial inquest being used in court, see the Daniel Morcombe case study at section 16.36. The evidence may, however, be used against a co-accused witness.

When an inquest must not be held

An inquest must not be held, or must be postponed if already commenced, when someone is charged with a criminal offence in connection with the death (s 29 Coroners Act).