Last updated 20 January 2022
Coroners have broad powers to investigate deaths so that they can make findings and comments about the death. Coroners may only investigate reportable deaths (s 11(2) Coroners Act 2003 (Qld) (Coroners Act)) and are encouraged to proactively manage cases and refer the matter to other relevant agencies where appropriate.
Deaths that must not be investigated
A death must not be investigated, or further investigated, if (s 12 Coroners Act):
- the cause-of-death certificate has been issued (s 12(2)(b) Coroners Act)
- the death occurred outside of Queensland and the Attorney-General or State Coroner has not provided a direction to investigate (ss 11(4)(b), 12(1) Coroners Act)
- it is established that the remains being investigated are Indigenous burial remains (s 12(2)(a) Coroners Act)
- the investigation is trying to determine how a child came to be stillborn, noting that the coroner can only order an autopsy to determine whether a baby was born alive (s 12(2)(c) Coroners Act)
- the State Coroner has directed a coroner to stop an investigation (e.g. where a death has already been adequately investigated).
Gathering information and referrals
The coroner has the power to direct police or other agencies to make all necessary enquiries when investigating a death. As part of this process, the coroner may obtain:
- investigation reports from certain agencies (e.g. police and other state government departments and agencies that may have information relevant to the death)
- statements from those involved in the events leading up to the death (e.g. treating doctors, correctional centre staff, care workers)
- expert reports from any person that can interpret injuries and inform the investigation (e.g. forensic medicine officers from the Queensland Health Clinical Forensic Medicine Unit and mental health clinicians from the Queensland Health Directorate of Mental Health).
Where appropriate, the coroner may also refer the matter to other investigative agencies. If, for example, the coroner has a reasonable suspicion that a person has committed an offence, the coroner must pass evidence of this suspicion onto an appropriate prosecuting authority. Similarly, the coroner may refer information about official misconduct or police misconduct to the Crime and Corruption Commission, and information about a person’s professional or occupational conduct to a relevant regulatory body such as the Office of the Health Ombudsman or the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency (s 48 Coroners Act).
The way that the investigations are conducted will depend on the way that the death occurred and the particular facts of the case.