Coroners investigate all deaths where the cause is unknown, where there is reason to think the death may not be due to natural causes, or which need an inquiry for some other reason.
Each Senior Coroner is responsible for a geographical area. Derek Winter, Senior Coroner for Sunderland is responsible for the area covered by Sunderland City Council.
A Coroner will inquire into a death once they receive a report that a body is lying within their jurisdiction. Coroners have the power to have a body brought into the public mortuary and keep it there whilst they carry out an investigation.
The Coroner will investigate each case in an appropriate way. It may be as simple as consulting with the Doctor who last treated the person who has died, or a post mortem examination may be needed. In some cases the Coroner may open an inquest, which is a judicial inquiry into the death.
Coroners are members of the Judiciary and are not employed by the Local Authority. However, the Local Authority funds the Coroner's Service and his office staff. The Coroner's Officers who assist with the investigation are employed by Northumbria Police.
A guide to the work of the Coroner is available from the Ministry of Justice website.
The Sunderland Coroner Service has its own dedicated website.