As part of an investigation, the coroner may ask an external expert to provide an opinion on the circumstances around a death or fire.
Experts are chosen on their qualifications and training, skills, experience and specialist knowledge, or other factors.
If you’re engaged as an expert witness
The court will engage you to produce a report or appear at an inquest if one is being held.
The court will send you a letter of engagement, containing:
- the written direction from the coroner setting out the questions and/or issues you need to address
- your responsibilities, including when you must deliver the report to the court
- details around payment
- the court’s Code of Conduct for expert witnesses.
The court will give you the relevant materials, such as statements from organisations involved, or (if applicable) the deceased’s medical file. Your response could be used to inform the coroner’s findings, comments and recommendations.
Who can obtain a copy your report?
The coroner may release an expert witness’ report to:
- the senior next of kin
- an interested party
- a statutory body
- a member of the police force
- any person if it is in the public interest; or
- a person deemed by the coroner to have a sufficient interest.
Appearing at an inquest
When you step into the witness box, you will be asked whether you want to take an oath or make an affirmation to swear you evidence will be truthful.
Your previously submitted statement may be read aloud and you will be asked if it is true and correct.
You will then be asked questions by the coroner’s assistant or counsel assisting, other parties and the coroner.
If you incur expenses in providing your response (outside of the agreed payment), you can apply for reimbursement. An example of this could be the costs involved in appearing in person at an inquest.