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Coronial Inquest Unit

Who we are

The Coronial Inquest Unit is a statewide specialist service of Legal Aid NSW. We provide free legal advice, assistance and representation to people at coronial inquests where the matter involves some ‘public interest’.

Public interest is something of serious concern common 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.

Who we help

Usually, legal aid is provided to a family member or next of kin to the deceased person. In exceptional circumstances, aid might be granted to someone other than a family member.

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 representation is usually not available to such people.

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. This will only be offered if the solicitor talking to you has time available, and will not involve ongoing assistance.

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. We may also be able to make submissions and if necessary appear before the Coroner in relation to decisions to hold or dispense with inquests. We are a free service, although in some cases a small contribution may be levied. If you are applying for legal aid, you will need to pass a means test; however there is some room for the exercise of discretion in cases of hardship.

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.