Woohoo! Absolutely thrilled to be hosting MJ Lee’s WHERE THE TRUTH LIES blog tour today with a fabulous guest post on what a Coroner does! Huge thanks to Ellie Pilcher and Canelo for the invite. First a bit about the author and this book!
About the Author
Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.
He can be contacted at writermjlee.com, on Facebook at writermjlee, on twitter, you guessed it, @writermjlee. He’s nothing if not original with his internet domains.
About the Book
The case was closed. Until people started dying… The unputdownable first DI Ridpath crime thriller from bestseller MJ Lee
A killer in total control. A detective on the edge. A mystery that HAS to be solved.
DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising young detective whose first case involved capturing a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then people start dying: tortured, murdered, in an uncanny echo of Ridpath’s first case.
As the investigation intensifies, old bodies go missing, records can’t be found and the murder count grows. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, digging up skeletons some would rather forget, Ridpath is caught in a race against time: a race to save his career, his marriage… And lives.
When a detective goes missing everything is on the line. Can Ridpath close the case and save his colleague?
WHERE THE TRUTH LIES is a nail-biting crime thriller, full of breathtaking twists and turns in this fast-paced and extraordinarily original novel. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James and Faith Martin
What does a Coroner and a Coroner’s Officer actually do?
In Where the Truth Lies I feature as one of the main characters, Margaret Challinor, the Head Coroner for East Manchester.
But it was only as I was writing the book that I realised how little people know about a Coroner’s job despite it having one of the most important roles in the investigation and understanding of death in the English and Welsh legal systems.
Coroner’s were first created in the 11th Century shortly after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The job hasn’t changed much since then. They were appointed as servants of the crown, hence coroners, to separate the investigation of death from the legal process of judgment.
The law is always reluctant to change. It’s one of the strengths, and its weaknesses. There are just under one hundred people full-time Coroners in England and Wales, and their jurisdiction is limited to determining who the deceased was and how, when and where they came by their death. When the death is suspected to have been either sudden or from an unknown cause, the coroner decides whether to hold a post-mortem examination and, if necessary, an inquest.
As ever, the management of the Coronial system in England is perverse. Coroners are independent judicial office holders, appointed and paid for by the relevant local authority. The Ministry of Justice, which is headed by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has the responsibility for the coronial law and policy only, and no operational responsibility. There are separate services for England and Wales, and for Northern Ireland. A different system applies in Scotland, which does not have a coroner service. Since 2009, the coroner service in England and Wales is supervised by the Chief Coroner, a judge appointed by the Lord Chief Justice after consulting the Lord Chancellor. He provides advice, guidance and training to coroners and aims to secure uniformity of practice throughout England and Wales. Amazingly for such an important judicial post, it is currently part-time.
The coroner’s court is a court of law, and accordingly, the coroner may summon witnesses. Those found lying are guilty of perjury. Additional powers of the coroner may include the power of subpoena and attachment, the power of arrest, the power to administer oaths, and sequester juries of six during inquests.
Coroners also have a role in treasure trove cases. This role arose from the ancient duty of the coroner as a protector of the property of the Crown. It is now contained in the Treasure Act 1996. This jurisdiction is no longer exercised by local coroners, but by specialist “Coroners for Treasure” appointed by the Chief Coroner.
The coroner has a team of Coroner’s Officers (previously often ex-police officers, but increasingly from a nursing or other paramedical background) who carry out the investigation on the coroner’s behalf. In management speak, their job is as ‘ an advocate for the dead to safeguard the living.’
A coroner’s officer investigation may involve a simple review of the circumstances, ordering a post-mortem examination, or they may decide that an inquest is appropriate. When a person dies in the custody of the legal authorities (in police cells, or in prison), an inquest must be held. In England, inquests are usually heard without a jury (unless the coroner wants one). However, a case in which a person has died under the control of central authority must have a jury, as a check on the possible abuse of governmental power.
The Coroner’s role was reinforced after the Harold Shipman case when a doctor in Manchester murdered over 300 elderly people without any coroner ever holding an inquest on any of the deaths. The Smith Inquiry reported on the Shipman murders and offered a whole raft of measures to prevent them happening again. But, of course, the government of the day ignored the recommendations due to a combination of a reluctance to change and cost. ensuring a similar killer like Harold Shipman could operate again without detection.
As Margaret Challinor explains in Where the Truth Lies, the difference between a coroner’s officer and the police is stark. ‘We don’t chase convictions, we don’t chase criminals, we don’t chase promotions. We simply represent the families and we look for the truth. Who died? When did they die? How did they die? Who was responsible? Is that clear, Detective?’
DI Thomas Ridpath in this novel is a temporary Coroner’s Officer who is discovering his new found powers and using them to find out the real truth behind a murder ten years ago.
It’s a journey that opens his eyes to the realities of a serial killer as well as confirming his belief that the truth and nothing but the truth is all that matters.
I hope you enjoy the read and discovering more about Coroners in England.
Absolutely LOVED that post – thank you so much, MJ Lee for an informative and fascinating post! Make sure you follow the rest of the tour here, #bookjunkies!