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Stillbirth Inquests: How A Consultation Could Help Bereaved Families

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Tragically, one in 200 babies is stillborn in the UK. Tilly Bailey & Irvine Law Firm's Helen Elstob explains how an ongoing consultation could result in a legal ruling that gives families much-needed answers...

Under current legislation, Coroners cannot investigate deaths when it is known that the baby was not born alive.

A consultation is underway to consider proposals for stillbirths to be investigated by the Coroner and determine cause of death at an Inquest. The Ministry of Justice consultation opened on 26 March 2019 and will close 18 June 2019, with feedback expected 10 September 2019.

The proposed system would give Coroners powers to investigate all full term (from 37 weeks) stillbirths and would ensure that bereaved parents are involved at all stages of the investigation.

This significant development would give bereaved parents and families much needed answers.

What is an Inquest?

It is an investigation into the circumstances and cause of someone's death.

When is an Inquest needed?

The Coroner will investigate the cause of death, where a doctor has been unable to determine cause of death. An Inquest may be needed if a report has been made about the death, which requires investigation. The Coroner must also hold an Inquest where the death was violent or unnatural; sudden and unexplained; was in prison or police custody.

What is the purpose of an Inquest?

The Coroner will gather evidence in order to determine the facts and the cause of death. A post mortem examination may be ordered. The Coroner’s conclusion will not apportion blame and will not consider if there is any civil or criminal liability.

If an Inquest takes place with a jury; the jury will determine the conclusion.

For advice and assistance on Inquests, contact our Teesside solicitors at Tilly Bailey & Irvine and get #StrengthOnYourSide. We serve across the North East from offices in Hartlepool, Wynyard, Barnard Castle and Stockton-on-Tees.