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Coronial Inquest Unit

Who we are

The Coronial Inquest Unit is a state-wide specialist service of Legal Aid NSW. We provide free legal advice and assistance in coronial matters, and we represent people at coronial inquests where legal aid has been granted.

Legal Aid is available for representation at inquests within NSW where a public interest test is satisfied, or in all cases involving the death of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in custody.

Public interest matters

Legal Aid is available for representation at coronial inquests in New South Wales where the public interest would be advanced by that representation.

Public interest is something of serious concern to the public at large, or a significant section of the public, such as a disadvantaged or marginalised group. For something to be of “public interest” it must amount to more than a private right or individual interest, although the two may coincide. Some examples of inquests likely to involve a public interest are:

  • a death in custody
  • a death of a child in DoCS care
  • a death in a psychiatric hospital
  • a death involving a matter of public safety

As well as making findings concerning the “cause and manner of death” of a person, one of the important functions of the Coroner’s Court is to make recommendations, where appropriate, to Government agencies and regulatory bodies, aimed at preventing future deaths in similar circumstances. Due to the Unit’s emphasis on public interest matters, providing assistance to the Court in relation to this role is an important feature of its work.

Indigenous deaths in custody

Consistent with the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Legal Aid is also available in all matters which involve the death of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island in custody.

Who we help

Usually, Legal Aid is provided to a family member or next of kin of the deceased person. In some circumstances, aid may be granted to someone other than a family member, provided they have a sufficient interest in the proceedings.

How we can help

Advice and assistance

We give free independent advice about Coroner’s Court matters to people. This may include advice to a “person of interest” (ie a person who might face criminal charges as a result of the death), although full representation at inquest is usually not available.

Sometimes we may be able to offer you Minor Assistance. This may include writing a letter for you or making a telephone call to try and resolve your matter. We may also be able to assist you in relation to the Coroner’s decision to hold or dispense with an inquest.

This assistance will only be offered if the solicitor talking to you has time available.

We will advise you if you are eligible for further representation by way of a grant of legal aid. We will also refer you to other services or a private solicitor if required.

Representation

If you qualify for legal aid, we can represent you at a coronial inquest. Private solicitors may apply for Legal Aid, though most grants of aid will involve the use of our in-house services.

We are a free service. If you are applying for legal aid, you will need to pass a means test, though in some cases we may exercise discretion.

Location

Our service is located at the Central Sydney office, 323 Castlereagh St (corner of Hay St) Haymarket and is available from 9am to 5pm.

Contact us

If you would like to make an application for legal aid for representation at an inquest or to discuss anything about the Coroner’s Court please call the Coronial Inquest Unit on 02 9219 5156 or 02 9219 5000.

If you live in regional NSW contact us through your local Legal Aid NSW office or call LawAccess NSW, our legal help line on 1300 888 529.

Related information

The NSW State Coroner’s Court website contains much useful information including an outline of the work of the Court, copies of findings made in various inquests and details of counselling and other services available to the recently bereaved.