As part of the investigation, the court will request written statements and the Coroner/Procurator Fiscal will then decide who to call as a witness. You may not need to attend the inquest/inquiry if your evidence is unlikely to be controversial. If you are called as a witness, the Coroner may ask you to read through your statement, or may take you through the statement in court by asking you a series of questions. The questions asked during an inquest must be relevant to the Coroner’s inquiry. Witnesses are not subjected to cross examination and can refrain from answering questions if the answer would incriminate them.
The Coroner can grant individuals and/or organisations 'properly interest person status'. The Coroner will decide who meets the criteria for for 'properly interested person status' and they are permitted to ask you questions. The family are automatically properly interested persons.
Organisations such as care homes and hospitals can also be given this status. Individuals who have a key role in the circumstances of the death can be granted interested party status too. As an interested party, you are able to be legally represented throughout the proceedings, to ask questions of other witnesses and to receive a copy of the documents that the Coroner intends to rely on. The Coroner may change the status of a witness to a properly interested person. Often this simply means that the Coroner considers that this person may be able to assist further.
When giving evidence you must be honest and make sure that anything you say in evidence or any documents that you write, or sign, are not false or misleading. You must take reasonable steps to check the information and must not deliberately leave out relevant information.
You must also ensure when giving evidence that you only answer question which are within your sphere of expertise.
If you have been summonsed, or cited in Scotland, and do not attend you may receive a penalty, a fine or even a prison sentence. A witness summons should not be ignored.
If there is a risk of you being prosecuted in connection with a death or you are found to have some responsibility for the death, it is very important that you contact us for further advice.