Coping with the death of a loved one isn’t easy – and grief can be exacerbated when the death becomes public record.

But there are important reasons why inquests are held in public and why the press attends and reports on them.

The press relies on coroner’s courts to make families aware that we may attend their loved one’s inquest. But here we will try and answer some of your questions about what will happen, what can be reported and why.

What is an inquest?

An inquest can happen when someone dies suddenly at home from natural causes, as well to investigate how someone died as a result of an accident, or other causes.

The Coroner needs to establish through their investigations who the deceased person was, when they died, where they died and how they died.

A coroner can call witnesses to give evidence or statements in the course of their investigations.

Inquests are not usually heard in front of a jury; however there are cases in which it is mandatory.

What can the press report?

Many families can be shocked or upset to find the press in attendance at their loved one’s inquest. But the press – along with members of the public – are legally allowed to attend.

Coroners courts are courts of law and reports of these are covered by something called absolute privilege. This means that a press report can contain any details given in open court, so long as the report is a fair, accurate and contemporaneous account of those proceedings.

Sometimes, a coroner can impose a reporting restriction on certain details. Judges can place a restriction on the naming of children in court. However, this restriction doesn’t apply when the child is deceased, so if it’s a child’s inquest, they can be named.

Reporters are allowed to make notes - either with a notepad and pen or on an electronic device - during proceedings. They can also use social media. Recordings and taking photographs are illegal (for anyone, not just the press) in court.

Can the press approach me at an inquest?

We are regulated by IPSO and the guidelines state that reporting on inquests must be done with sensitivity. Yes, the press can approach you at an inquest. Generally, reporters will not approach a family before an inquest as we know it’s a tough and emotional day. Afterwards, you may be approached by a journalist who will ask if you want to discuss the outcome and/or give a tribute to your loved one. Some families do want to do this, others don’t – both are perfectly understandable.

Journalists are duty-bound to include the facts of the case and must always report the coroner’s conclusion.

Reporters are mindful that we are reporting on someone’s death and that their family, friends and loved ones may read your article.

What about inquests reports of suicides?

When reporting someone’s suicide, journalists cannot include excessive details about how they died.

This is to help prevent other people from using the details which might result in them taking their own life in a similar way.

Suicide notes are not usually read out during an inquest, but journalists are free to report the contents if they are.

We try to include helpline information – specifically Samaritans – on reports of inquests about suicides.


If you would like any help with bereavement, loss or mental wellbeing, here are some helpline numbers

You can call the Samaritans on 116 123

Child Bereavement UK 0800 028 8840

Cruse Bereavement Care 0808 808 1677 

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) 0300 111 5065