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International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy

Suicide and the Therapeutic Coroner: Inquests, Governance and the Grieving Family

Abstract

This study of English Coronial practice raises a number of questions about the role played by the Coroner within contemporary governance. Following observations at over 20 inquests into possible suicides and in-depth interviews with six Coroners, three preliminary issue emerged, all of which pointed to a broader and, in many ways, more significant issue. These preliminary issues are concerned with (1) the existence of considerable slippages between different Coroners over which deaths are likely to be classified as suicide; (2) the high standard of proof required and immense pressure faced by Coroners from family members at inquest to reach any verdict other than suicide, which significantly depresses likely suicide rates; and (3) Coroners feeling no professional obligation, either individually or collectively, to contribute to the production of consistent and useful social data regarding suicide, arguably rendering comparative suicide statistics relatively worthless. These concerns lead, ultimately, to the second more important question about the role expected of Coroners within social governance and within an effective, contemporary democracy. That is, are Coroners the principal officers in the public administration of death; or are they, first and foremost, a crucial part of the grieving process, one that provides important therapeutic interventions into the mental and emotional health of the community?

Published:
Pages:92 to 104
Section: Articles

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Author Biographies

Queensland University of Technology
Australia Australia

Gordon Tait is an associate professor in the faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology.  He has a background in Sociology, Philosophy, and Law.   He has written books in the areas of cultural studies, sociology, criminology, and education.  His recent research interests lie in the fields of the sociology and philosophy of education, and the sociology of death investigations.

Queensland University of Technology
Australia Australia
Belinda is Professor in the School of Justice and Director of the Crime and Justice Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology.  She researches at the intersection of social and criminal justice in areas as diverse as death investigation, sex crimes and violent offending women.
Open Access Journal
ISSN 2202-8005