Stephen Bourne Lawyer - Coronial Inquests
(c) Stephen Bourne 2016  

Stephen Bourne
Barrister at Law
LLM MBS MSc(Psych) ANZIIF(Fellow)


Coronial Inquests

I very clearly remember an inquest I attended as a lawyer representing a party about 12 years ago, in 2005. Tragically, drugs prescribed by a medical doctor had led to the death of a young mother who suffered a fatal asthma attack. I will never forget the intense media interest, and the huge pressure to lay blame. However the main purpose of the inquest was to find the truth about what had happened. Although the coroner concluded that the young woman's death resulted from a tragic combination of circumstances, I'm nonetheless sure the doctor and other medical professionals in the region were much more careful in their prescribing to asthma patients after that inquest.

I recount this case of the doctor because it informed my firm view that coronial inquests are an essential part of identifying risks and hazards in day to day life, and preventing further deaths from preventable causes. In addition, for the family of a deceased person, an inquest may provide much-needed answers, or may at least give some degree of closure.

My interest in coronial matters has continued to the present day, and for the larger part of the past few years I have been particularly involved in coronial inquests regarding the deaths of children. These are especially tragic because of the loss of innocent young lives, and because so many of these deaths are preventable. While an inquest cannot bring back a deceased child, if it saves the life of just one other child it has been a valuable process. Inquests like these often run over several days, with presentation of evidence by police or other authorities, and extensive cross-examination of medical professionals and other witnesses.

For parties or others giving evidence at coronial inquests, intensive preparation is essential. This may take several weeks or even months, including obtaining witness statements and identifying critical issues.

If you need to talk to a lawyer about a coronial matter, or a death that may become the subject of a coronial inquest, give me a call on on +64 (0) (3) 288 01 80 or +61 (0) 418 254 043.