The role of the Coroner was established in 1194, with the primary duty of collecting revenue for the Crown from events which might merit it, including deaths. Over time, the tax collecting duties took a back seat to the Coroner’s role in investigating deaths.
Coroners are independent officers, with legal powers. Each Coroner has a deputy and one of them must be available at all times to deal with matters relating to inquests and post mortems. They are appointed and paid by the local authority. In Scotland, the Procurator Fiscal is the equivalent of the Coroner.
Their job is to inquire into deaths reported to them, which appear to be violent, unnatural, or of sudden and unknown cause. In particular the Coroner must be informed if the deceased was not attended by a doctor during the last illness or the doctor treating the deceased had not seen him or her either after death or within the 14 days before death, the death was violent or unnatural or occurred under suspicious circumstances, the cause of death is not known or is uncertain, the death occurred while the patient was undergoing an operation or did not recover from the anesthetic, the death was caused by an industrial disease or the death occurred in prison or in police custody.