Page images

precept to the constables of the four, five, or six next townships, to return a competent number of good and lawful men to appear before him at such a place, to make an inquisition concerning the matter ; and under the Coroners Act, 1887, s. 3, when the coroner is inforined of a dead body lying within his jurisdiction, and there is reasonable cause to suspect that the death was violent, or unnatural, or inexplicably sudden, or took place in prison, or in any other proper case, he is to issue his warrant for the summoning of not less than twelve nor more than twenty-three good and lawful men to inquire as jurors touching the death.

The inquisition of the coroner must be held before the coroner as presiding officer, and his court is a court of record (e). The jury, who must still, as formerly, consist of twelve at least ($), are to be sworn and charged by the coroner, to inquire how the party came by his death (g). [The inquisition must be had super visum corporis ; and at the first sitting of the inquest, the coroner and jurors must view the body (h), for if the body be not found the coroner cannot sit, except by virtue of a special commission issued for the purpose (i). By the common law, he was bound also to sit at the very place where the death happened, though not necessarily at the same place where the body was viewed, for the jury might have adjourned elsewhere to see the body if found more convenient (k).] Subsequently, however, by the Coroners Act, 1843, it was provided, that only the coroner within whose jurisdiction the body was lying dead, should hold the inquest, though the cause of death might not have arisen within his jurisdiction ; and that in the case of any body found dead in

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the sea, or in any creek, river, or navigable canal within the flowing of the sea, (where there should be no deputy coroner for the jurisdiction of the admiralty of England,) the inquest should be held only by the coroner having jurisdiction in the place where the body was first brought to land (1). These provisions are continued by the ('oroners Act, 1887, s. 7 (1); and by the same Act, s. 40 (1), for the purpose of inquests, every detached part of a county, riding, or division, is to be deemed to be within that county, riding, or division, by which the same is wholly surrounded, or, where it is partly surrounded by two or more counties, ridings, or divisions, within that one with which it has the longest common boundary.

At this inquisition, the coroner and jury must hear such evidence as is offered, to be given on oath (m) or affirmation (n); moreover, by the Coroners Act, 1887, s. 21, continuing a like provision contained in the Coroners (Ireland) Act, 1836, whenever it appears to the coroner that the deceased was attended at his death, or during his last illness, by any legally qualified medical practitioner, he may order the attendance of such practitioner as a witness at the inquest, and, where the deceased was not so attended, the attendance of any legally qualified medical practitioner, being at the time in actual practice in or near the place where the death happened. The Coroners Act, 1887, S. 4 (1), further enables the coroner to examine all persons whatsoever having knowledge of the facts whom he may think it expedient to examine ; and, by s. 21 (2), he may also direct a post mortem examination, with or without an analysis of the contents of the stomach or intestines, provided, however, that if a sworn statement be made to him of the belief of the deponent, that the death was caused entirely or in part by the improper or negligent treatment of any person by him

(1) R. v. Hinde (1844), 5 Q. B. (m) R. v. Scorey (1748), 1 Leach, 944; R. v. Ellis (1846), 2 Car. & C. C. 43 ; 2 Hale, P. C. 62. Kir. 470.

(w) Oaths Act, 1888.

named, such person shall not be allowed to perform or assist at the post mortem examination. Moreover, when it shall appear to the majority of the jury that the cause. of death has not been satisfactorily explained by the witnesses in the first instance, they may name to the coroner, in writing, any other legally qualified practitioners, and require their attendance as witnesses, or for a post mortem examination, whether one shall have been previously performed or not. By section 22 of the Act, the medical witnesses are to be allowed proper | remuneration for their attendance and trouble (i.e., one guinea for attending, and two guineas for making a post mortem examination and attending), and they forfeit 51. for every neglect to obey an order for their attendance ; but there is a proviso, that in case of death in any hospital, infirmary, or lunatic asylum, no remuneration shall be allowed to any person whose duty it was to attend the deceased, as a medical officer of the institution.

The verdict must be found with the concurrence of at least twelve of the jury (0), and there are provisions to prevent the inquisition from being quashed on account of merely technical defects (p). If by such verdict any person be found guilty of murder or other homicide, or of being an accessory to murder before the fact, the coroner is to commit him to prison for further trial, and he must certify the inquisition, under his own seal and the seals of the jurors, to the King's Bench Division, or to the next assizes (9) ; but, in general, an indictment is laid before the grand jury at the same assizes to which the coroner's inquisition is returned. By the Coroners Act, 1887, s. 5 (3), the coroner is required to deliver the depositions of the witnesses to the officer of the court where the trial is to be(r); and by section 5 (1), the coroner has authority to bind by recognizance all who know or declare any thing material touching such offence, to appear at the court at which the trial is to be, either to prosecute or to give evidence against the party charged. Under the provisions of the last-mentioned section, amending the 22 Vict. (1859), c. 33, the coroner may, on a verdict of manslaughter, at his discretion, accept sufficient bail for the person so charged, for his appearance to take his trial at the next assize and general gaol delivery for the county.

(0) 2 Hale, P. C. 161; Lam. (p) Coroners Act, 1887, s. 20, bert v. Taylor (1825), 4 B. & C. 138. amending 6 & 7 Vict. (1843), c. 83; By the Births and Deaths Regis. R. v. Evett (1827), 6 B. & C. 247; tration Act, 1874, 3s. 16, 20 (3) In re Culley (1833), 5 B. & Ad. 230; the coroner is directed, after the In re Daws (1838), 8 A. & E. 936. inquest, to inform the registrar (9) Coroners Act, 1887, s. 5; of deaths for the district, of the cf. 33 Hen. 8 (1541), c. 12; 2 finding of the jury as to the par- West, Symb. s. 310 ; Cromp. ticulars of death required to be 264 ; Tremain, P. C. 621 ; registered. See also Coroners Act, R. v. White (1860), 6 Jur. (N.s.) 1887, s. 45, and sched. 3.


It may be here noticed, that, by the Capital Punishment Amendment Act, 1868, the coroner of the jurisdiction to which the prison belongs, wherein judgment of death is executed on any offender, is expressly required to hold an inquest on the body within twenty-four hours after the execution, and to inquire thereat into, and ascertain the identity of the body, and whether the judgment was duly executed on the offender ; and it is directed, that at such inquest neither any officer of the prison, nor any prisoner confined therein, shall be a juror (t).

[Another branch of the coroner's office is to inquire concerning treasure trove, who were the finders, and where the treasure is, and whether any one be suspected of having found and concealed it (u); but although it was

(r) See also Prosecution of Offences Act, 1879, s. 5.

(8) In cases of suicide, on a verdict of felo de se, the coroner at one time directed the remains to be interred in some public highway, a stake being previously driven through the body ; but under the 4 Geo. 4 (1823), c. 52, a private interment in the usual

churchyard or burial place was substituted. And the Interments (Felo de se) Act, 1882, which has repealed the 4 Geo. 4 (1823), c. 52, contains provisions to the like effect.

(1) Coroners Act, 1887, s. 3 (2).

(u) Coroners Act, 1887, s. 36 ; Att.-Gen. v. Moore, [1893] 1 Ch. 676.

(formerly part of his duties to inquire concerning shipwrecks, and to certify whether it was a wreck or not, and who were in possession of the goods, he is now relieved of that duty, and also of the duty of holding inquests on royal fish (x). He does not now hold the pleas of the crown, nor inquire as to the goods of felons, nor hold any inquest of felonies, save on inquisitions of death (y).

The coroner, as conservator of the king's peace, becomes also a magistrate by virtue of his appointment, having power to cause offenders to be apprehended, whether an inquisition has been found against them or not (2). But the ministerial office of the coroner is only as the sheriff's substitute in executing process ; for when just exception can be taken to the sheriff for suspicion of partiality--as that he is himself interested in the action, or of kindred to either plaintiff or defendant—the process must then be awarded to the coroner, and not to the sheriff (a).

III. Justices of the Peace. The common law hath ever had a special care and regard for the conservation of the peace ; and, therefore, before the present constitution of justices was invented, there were peculiar officers, appointed by the common law, for the maintenance of the public peace. Of these some had, and still have, this power annexed to other offices which they hold, while others had it merely by itself, and were thence named custodes or conservatores pacis. Those that were so virtute officii still continue, but the latter sort are superseded by the modern justices.

The king is, by his office and dignity royal, the principal conservator of the peace within all his dominions (1); and the lord chancellor or keeper, the lord treasurer, the lord

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« EelmineJätka »