Coroners play an important role in the dispensation of justice in the United Kingdom. When a death occurs, especially in an unnatural or mysterious manner, it is the job of a coroner to investigate and establish the cause. If you possess strong investigative skills, and you would like to work in the judicial system, albeit independently, then you could become a coroner.
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1. What Do Coroners Do?
Their duties include:
- Investigating the cause of a reported death- This may involve interviewing the deceased’s doctors and family members, as well as ordering a postmortem examination
- Investigating the identity of the deceased, in case the remains have not been claimed by relatives
- Writing to the Registrar to notify him or her about the cause of a reported death
- Helping families of the deceased to understand the cause of their loved one’s death
- Advising families members on the legal channels that are available to them, in case they wish to seek justice in a court of law
- Maintaining accurate records of the deceased and ensuring information is kept confidential
- Supervising a staff that includes coroner’s representatives, barristers and office administrators
- Making recommendations to law enforcement agencies on what can be done to prevent future deaths
2. Work Environment
The work environment of a coroner is more like that of a detective. Although they have offices, they are often on the move gathering information from the people who knew the deceased. When they are not investigating deaths, they focus on practicing law since they are already qualified barristers or solicitors.
Since a death can be reported at any time, a coroner should be ready to work at any time, including unsocial hours.
Coroners are well-paid. According to the National Careers Service, full-time coroners make between £83,000 and £104,000 annually.
Those who work on a part-time basis can make up to £50,000.
4. Entry Requirements
If you have your sights set on becoming a coroner, then you must first become a solicitor or barrister. In general, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in law and complete a GDL conversion course among other requirements. It is also possible to enter the legal profession through an apprenticeship, like the one offered by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
Since 2013, professionals who are Fellows of CILEx are permitted to become coroners, as long as they possess at least 5 years of experience working in the UK’s judicial system. Barristers and solicitors must also meet this experience requirement.
Once you have the experience, you can apply to your local authority for appointment as a deputy coroner, from where you can work your way up. Your appointment must be sanctioned by the Chief Coroner and the Lord Chancellor.
5. Important Qualities
To become a competent coroner, you need:
- Excellent communication skills to explain legal information in an easy to understand manner
- Excellent investigative skills
- An intricate understanding of UK’s legal and judicial systems
- Strong problem-solving skills
- A keen attention to detail
- Interpersonal skills
- The ability to demonstrate sensitivity to the emotions and feelings of the deceased’s relatives
- Skills in personnel management
- Analytical skills
- Love for a just society
- Presentation skills
- Emotional strength – the job involves viewing dead bodies, some which may be in unsightly states
6. Career Development
Once you are hired as a deputy or assistant coroner, you will need to gain more experience in order to be promoted to the position of coroner.
Be sure to join the Coroner’s Society of England and Wales to access industry newsletters and network with other professionals.
Although not necessary, you can pursue additional training in medicine. This will help you to gain a scientific understanding of death, enabling you to become a well-rounded coroner.
In the near future, all crooners will be requires to attend the Judicial College for training. The college is currently developing a training program.
7. Job Opportunities
The 97 local authorities in England and Wales are the primary employers of coroners. With vast experience, you can rise to become a senior coroner. If you are competent enough, and you have solid connections in the judicial system, then you stand a chance of becoming the Chief Coroner.
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Finally, the National Careers Service projects a steady increase in the number of employment opportunities in the public sector through 2020.
So if you are a lover of justice, and you would like to help uncover the causes of suspicious deaths, you have all the right reasons to become a coroner.