Safety measures in the coroner’s court

June 2024

Inquest hearings are open to members of the public, and when I have attended always noted that those in the public area have always demonstrated a high level of respect of the process. I was therefore surprised to read in the law gazette read here the need for safety measures in the coroner’s court, due to the nature of the cases it deals with.

The purpose of inquests is to investigate deaths which appear to be unknown, violent or unnatural caused or where the person has died in custody or state detention. The family is placed at the heart of the process so that the important questions of where, when and how the person died can be answered.

The Chief Coroner’s guidance states that hearings must take place in a courtroom that is accessible to the public, allowing them to observe the proceedings.

However, Rule 11 (5) of the Chief Coroner (Inquests) Rules 2013 permits that:

A coroner may direct that the public be excluded from a pre-inquest review hearing if the coroner considers it would be in the interests of justice or national security to do so.

As reported by the law gazette, a security incident at Reading Coroner’s Court involved a man with a taser, causing what has been described as a “full-scale riot.” The incident resulted in the senior coroner and other court officers having to be removed for police protection. It also caused a family member to become very distressed who smashed the court room door

Following this incident, the Senior Coroner for Berkshire, Heidi Connor, stated “I have to balance a clear need for open justice on the one hand, with security on the other. Sadly, this is becoming an increasing necessity in courts nationally.”

Following this serious security incident, Reading Coroner’s Court has now installed an electronic locking system on the doors of its two courtrooms. This means that the courtroom doors will remain locked during inquests. Members of the public can still gain access once the doors are locked by getting the attention of the volunteer or the usher in the court room or ringing the coronial admin team so that a message can be passed on to those in court. Access may be provided at a convenient time so as to cause the least disruption to the court proceedings, witnesses or family members.

This is not the first time Reading Coroner’s Court has experienced security issues. In November 2019, a scuffle broke out after the inquest of a man who was killed in a police car chase concluded, and a crowd of people started shouting obscenities. Police officers had to form a human chain around Reading Town Hall, where the coroner’s court is based, and several riot vans had to be deployed.

Coroner courts are different to other courts, which are managed by His Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service; Coroner’s Courts are managed and funded by local authorities. The Chief Coroner reported in the Annual Report to the Lord Chancellor (May 2023) ( that concerns relating to security arrangements around the country in coroners courts are rarely adequate, with local authorities not having experience in judicial security. The same report noted a serious incident at Essex Coroner’s Court where the coroner was assaulted. Coroner courts are often held in council buildings or remote sites where there are no security facilities.

The Chief Coroner’s Guidance No. 30, issued on 29 January 2019, provides that when the coroner is advised (usually by the local police) that there may be some concerns about the security of the public and /or staff during an inquest, such as if the deceased had some involvement in a gang or with firearms or drugs, the coroner will work with the local authority to make any necessary arrangements, including the suitability of the venue.

Security at the coroner’s court is sadly becoming a necessity that the coroner and those in the coronial court office must consider. It is important to strike a balance between maintaining the open nature of the court proceedings and safeguarding those involved, including the family members, in order to minimise disruptions and ensure that important questions are answered.

How we can help

We are specialists in providing legal and social care training. If you require bespoke and practical skilled training on any legal or social care matters, please contact us for a no-obligation discussion of your training needs.


The content of this legal briefing is the copyright of Kingsley Knight Training. It can be printed and downloaded free of charge in an unaltered form temporarily for personal use or reference purposes. However, it is prohibited for any content printed or downloaded to be sold, licensed, transferred, copied, or reproduced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media to any person without the prior consent of Kingsley Knight.


The contents of this guide are for information and are not intended to be relied upon as legal advice

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.