Rights of Bereaved Families at Inquests Set Out in New Publication

Information to assist bereaved families involved with the Inquest process has been published today by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the Commission).

The new Information Note on the Rights of Families at Inquest gives families a road-map of the existing law, standards and procedures that apply at inquests with a particular focus on the protection of human rights and equality.

Along with clear information about the Inquest process, the Commission also provides families with template letters to support them in making specific requests related to the Inquest, such as being kept informed on progress, to apply for legal aid, or to apply for documentation in advance of the Inquest.

In developing this Information Note, the Commission spoke with families who had gone through the Inquest process themselves, and who wanted to help bereaved families who followed in their steps. Alongside families, the Commission also spoke with other key stakeholders including the Coroner’s Society of Ireland.

We have chosen to bring forward this Information Note in response to concerns voiced by some families over a lack of awareness of the process, how they can engage with it, and to understand their rights around an Inquest.

Inquests come at a time of intense trauma and personal stress, and it is hoped that this new information note will help families prepare and engage with the process, and equip them with a greater knowledge of their rights and how the process works. Last year saw 2101 inquests carried out across Ireland .

The Information Note provides practical guidance for families, and sets out:

  • details of who can attend and be involved in the inquest, and what scope inquests have;
  • a run-through of how an inquest proceeds, and how evidence is gathered;
  • information on families’ rights to apply for legal aid or advice if required;
  • how the process concludes, what the possible verdicts are, how findings are disseminated, and what rights families have if dissatisfied;
  • detail of what documentation families can expect to receive ahead of the inquest; and
  • how families can notify the Coroner of any special needs for participation such as wheelchair access or interpretation services etc.

Current Irish law on Inquests, which dates to 1962 was updated in 2019. This new Information Note gives families guidance on the existing law and the recent updates in a clear and comprehensive way. The 2019 changes saw the lists of reportable deaths widened, and the situations where inquests are required expanded to include people who die while in custody, maternal / late maternal deaths, and in certain situations stillbirths and situations where the cause of death cannot be obtained.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“For families facing Inquests, the process can be daunting and can add significant anxiety to an already deeply traumatic time of bereavement.

“We’ve developed this Information Note with families in mind, to equip them with clear information, as set out in law, on the process, their rights, and what they can expect from an Inquest.

“Our sincere thanks to those families and organisations who contributed their experiences and expertise to us in developing this Information Note. The anonymous testimony of families in particular will, we hope, help other families in tragic circumstances to engage with, and hopefully get some resolution from an Inquest involving a loved one.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 8589601 / 087 0697095
bdawson@ihrec.ie
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes to editor:

Read Information Note on the Rights of Families at Inquest

Information on the Rights of Families at Inquests web Cover

Published alongside is a Simplified Information Note which further refines down the essential information families facing into inquests need to know.

Read Simplified Information Note on the Rights of Families at Inquest

Simplified Info on the Rights of Families at Inquest web Cover

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas.

The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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