The coronial process

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The role of the coroner

Coroners are like judges. They are qualified lawyers appointed as judicial officers to investigate unexpected, violent or suspicious deaths to find out what happened.

Coroners look at and decide the facts about certain things to do with a person’s death, including:

  • that a person has died
  • who the person was
  • when and where the person died
  • how the person died
  • the circumstances around the death.

A coroner may:

  • start an inquiry to investigate a death, and to find out the cause and circumstances of that death; and
  • make recommendations and comments that may help to prevent similar deaths in the future.

 A coroner cannot start an inquiry to decide on civil, criminal, or disciplinary liability. This is because the powers that a coroner has are defined under New Zealand law, in the Coroners Act 2006.

For more information, see:

Coroners Act 2006(external link)

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Coronial inquiries and coronial inquests

A coronial inquiry is a process to find out the facts of a death. A coronial inquiry does not decide who is guilty for causing a death.

If a coroner believes they need more evidence to find out the facts of a death, they can hold a hearing in court. This is called a coronial inquest. At a coronial inquest, a coroner will hear from witnesses and consider evidence.

A coroner might not hold a formal coronial inquest if they believe they have all the evidence they need. In this case, they will still hold a hearing, but it won't be held in court and witnesses won't give evidence.

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Why has there not yet been a coronial inquiry for the Masjid attacks?

If a person has been charged with a criminal offence in relation to a death, a coroner may decide not to begin a coronial inquiry. They may decide to wait until after a criminal trial or court case has finished, and other evidence has been heard, to begin a coronial inquiry.

After a court case, a coroner might not begin an inquiry. They may decide that the evidence already provided has given them all the information they need to make their decision.

In the case of the Masjid attacks, it has been confirmed that 51 people died. Their identities, and the time and place of their deaths, have also been confirmed.

The Chief Coroner is considering whether further investigation is needed.

Chief Coroner is now considering the next steps

The families of the Shaheed and interested parties were asked to tell the Chief Coroner about issues or concerns they think should be part of a coronial inquiry. This includes issues that the families and interested parties consider have not been resolved by the prosecution process or the Royal Commission of Inquiry report.

The submission deadline has now passed and the Chief Coroner is considering the information provided by families and interested parties and deciding if an inquiry into the Masjid attacks is needed.


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