Southern Death Investigation: Theorizing Coronial Work from the Global South

  • Rebecca Scott Bray
  • Belinda Carpenter
  • Michael Barnes


Taking Australia as its example, this chapter argues that Southern death investigation exhibits a unique constellation of features developed in response to law on the frontier, and colonial settler society in its stead, and is a jurisdiction more deserving of critical criminological reflection. Australian coronial law and practice has been strongly shaped by its deaths, some contentious, and which petition distinct socio-legal legacies relating to key criminological issues. This chapter sets out this history, highlighting the empirical work already underway illuminating Southern death investigation practices and connecting global coronial concerns. Its aim is twofold: firstly, to discover the contributions of Australian death investigation to theoretically thinking through fatality and its effects and, secondly, to bring death investigation finally, fully, into the global criminological project.


Coroners Death investigation Southern criminology Inquests 


  1. Amnesty International. (2015). Chapter 3 The adequacy of post death investigations (Recommendations 6–40). In Review of the Implementation of RCIADIC.
  2. Barnes, M., Kirkegaard, A., & Carpenter, B. (2014). Intake rigour: Ensuring only ‘reportable deaths’ become coroners’ cases. Journal of Law and Medicine, 21(3), 572–583.Google Scholar
  3. Bugeja, L., & Ranson, D. (2003). Coroners’ recommendations: Do they lead to positive public health outcomes? Journal of Law and Medicine, 10(4), 399–400.Google Scholar
  4. Burney, I. (2000). Bodies of Evidence: Medicine and the Politics of the English Inquest, 1830–1926. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Burney, I., & Pemberton, N. (2016). Murder and the Making of English CSI. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Butterworth, L. (2012). What good is a coroner? The transformation of the Queensland office of coroner 1859–1959. PhD thesis. Queensland, Australia: Griffith University.Google Scholar
  7. Carpenter, B., & Tait, G. (2009). Health, death and Indigenous Australians in the coronial system. Aboriginal Australian Studies, 1, 29–41.Google Scholar
  8. Carpenter, B., Tait, G., Adkins, G., Barnes, M., Naylor, C., & Begum, N. (2011). Communicating with the coroner: How religion, culture, and family concerns may influence autopsy decision making. Death Studies, 35(4), 316–337. Scholar
  9. Carpenter, B., Tait, G., & Quadrelli, C. (2014). The body in grief: Death investigations, objections to autopsy, and the religious and cultural ‘other’. Religions, 5, 165–178. Scholar
  10. Carpenter, B., Tait, G., Quadrelli, C., & Drayton, J. (2015a). Scrutinizing the other: Incapacity, suspicion and manipulation in a death investigation. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 36(2), 113–128. Scholar
  11. Carpenter, B., Tait, G., Quadrelli, C., & Thompson, I. (2016). Investigating death: The emotional and cultural challenges for police. Policing & Society, 26(6), 698–712. Scholar
  12. Carpenter, B., Tait, G., Stobbs, N., & Barnes, M. (2015b). When coroners care too much: Therapeutic jurisprudence and suicide findings. Journal of Judicial Administration, 24(3), 172–183.Google Scholar
  13. Carrington, K., & Hogg, R. (2017). Deconstructing criminology’s origin stories. Asian Criminology. Scholar
  14. Carrington, K., Hogg, R., & Sozzo, M. (2016). Southern criminology. British Journal of Criminology, 56(1), 1–20. Scholar
  15. Chief Coroner England and Wales. (2013). Guidance No. 1 The Use of Post-Mortem Imaging (Adults), 4 September (amended 14 January 2016).Google Scholar
  16. Clements, C. (2006). Inquest into the Death of Mulrunji (Unreported). Queensland Coroner’s Court, 27 September.Google Scholar
  17. Coles, D., & Shaw, H. (2012). Learning from Death in Custody Inquests: A New Framework for Action and Accountability. London: INQUEST.Google Scholar
  18. Cunneen, C. (2006). Aboriginal deaths in custody: A continuing systematic abuse. Social Justice, 33(4), 37–51.Google Scholar
  19. Davis, G., Lindsey, R., Seabourne, G., & Griffiths-Baker, J. (2002). Experiencing inquests. Home Office Research Study 241. London: UK Home Office Research, Development & Statistics Directorate.Google Scholar
  20. Finnane, M., & Richards, J. (2004). ‘You’ll get nothing out of it’? The inquest, police and Aboriginal deaths in colonial Queensland. Australian Historical Studies, 35(123), 84–105. Scholar
  21. Freckelton, I. (2006). Coronial law reform: The new wave. Journal of Law and Medicine, 14, 151–155.Google Scholar
  22. Freckelton, I. (2009). Opening a new page. Law Institute Journal, 83(6), 28–33.Google Scholar
  23. Freckelton, I., & McGregor, S. (2014). Coronial law and practice: A human rights perspective. Journal of Law and Medicine, 21, 584–601.Google Scholar
  24. Freckelton, I., & Ranson, D. (2006). Death Investigation and the Coroner’s Inquest. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hill, C., & Cook, L. (2011). Narrative verdicts and their impact on mortality statistics in England and Wales. Health Statistics Quarterly, 49, 81–100. Scholar
  26. Hogan, M., Brown, D., & Hogg, R. (Eds.). (1988). Deaths in the Hands of the State. Redfern: Redfern Legal Centre Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Lacey, N. (2009). Historicising criminalisation: Conceptual and empirical issues. The Modern Law Review, 72(6), 936–960. Scholar
  28. Lynch, M. J., & Woodford, N. W. F. (2007). Objections to medico-legal autopsy—Recent developments in case law. Journal of Law and Medicine, 14(4), 463–468.Google Scholar
  29. Lynch, M. J., & Woodford, N. W. F. (2014). The role of post-mortem imaging in preliminary examinations under the Coroners Act 2008 (Vic): A forensic pathologist’s perspective. Journal of Law and Medicine, 21(4), 774–779.Google Scholar
  30. Merz, S., & Xavier Inda, J. (2016). Questioning racial prescriptions: An interview with Jonathan Xavier Inda. Theory, Culture and Society, 33(7–8), 338–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moore, J. (2016). Coroners’ Recommendations and the Promise of Saved Lives. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Morreau, P. (2006). Policing public nuisance: The legacy of recent events on Palm Island. Indigenous Law Bulletin, 6(28), 9–13.Google Scholar
  33. Nettlebeck, A., & Foster, R. (2010). Colonial judiciaries, Aboriginal protection and South Australia’s policy of punishing ‘with exemplary severity’. Australian Historical Studies, 41(3), 319–336. Scholar
  34. Norris, J. G. (1981). The Coroners Act 1958: A General Review. Victoria: State of Victoria Law Department.Google Scholar
  35. Pearse, J., & Daking, L. (2007). The National Coroners Information System: Contributing to death and injury prevention. Health Information Management Journal, 36(2), 54–57. Scholar
  36. Pelfrey, W., & White Covington, M. (2007). Deaths in custody: The utility of data collected from county coroners. Criminal Justice Studies, 20(1), 65–78. Scholar
  37. Queensland State Coroner’s Office. (2013). State Coroner’s Guidelines. Queensland: Queensland Courts.Google Scholar
  38. Ranson, D. (2010). The Coroners Act 2008 (Vic): A medical investigator’s perspective. Journal of Law and Medicine, 17(4), 487–492.Google Scholar
  39. Riches, G., & Dawson, P. (1998). Spoiled memories: Problems of grief resolution in families bereaved through murder. Mortality, 3(2), 143–159. Scholar
  40. Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. (1989). Report of the Inquiry into the Death of Mark Wayne Revell. Google Scholar
  41. Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. (1991). National Report, Vol 1. Google Scholar
  42. Scott Bray, R. (2008). ‘Why this law?’: Vagaries of jurisdiction in coronial reform and Indigenous death prevention. Australian Indigenous Law Review, 12(2), 27–44.Google Scholar
  43. Scott Bray, R. (2010). Death scene jurisprudence: The social life of coronial facts. Griffith Law Review, 19(3), 567–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Scott Bray, R. (2013). Paradoxical justice: The case of Ian Tomlinson. Journal of Law and Medicine, 21(2), 447–472.Google Scholar
  45. Scott Bray, R. (2016). Spotlight on coronial justice: The Hillsborough and Sydney Siege Inquests. Alternative Law Journal, 41(2), 146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Scott Bray, R., & Martin, G. (2016). Exploring fatal facts: Current issues in coronial law, policy and practice. International Journal of Law in Context, 12(2), 115–140. Scholar
  47. Scraton, P. (1999). Policing with contempt: The degrading of truth and denial of justice in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. Journal of Law and Society, 26(3), 273–297. Scholar
  48. Scraton, P. (2002). Lost lives, hidden voices: ‘Truth’ and controversial deaths. Race & Class, 44(1), 107–118. Scholar
  49. Scraton, P., & Chadwick, K. (1987). In the Arms of the Law: Coroners’ Inquests and Deaths in Custody. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  50. Selket, K., Glover, M., & Palmer, S. (2015). Normalising post-mortems—Whose cultural imperative? An indigenous view of New Zealand post-mortem policy. Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 10(1), 1–9. Scholar
  51. Smith, J. (2003). The Shipman Inquiry. Third Report: Death Certification and the Investigation of Deaths by Coroners (Cm 5854). Norwich: Crown Copyright.Google Scholar
  52. Sutherland, G., Kemp, C., Bugeja, L., Sewell, G., Pirkis, J., & Studdert, D. M. (2014). What happens to coroners’ recommendations for improving public health and safety? Organisational responses under a mandatory response regime in Victoria, Australia. BMC Public Health, 14, 732–739. Scholar
  53. Tait, G., & Carpenter, B. (2013). Suicide and therapeutic coroners: Inquests, governance and the grieving family. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 2(3), 92–104. Scholar
  54. Tait, G., & Carpenter, B. (2016). The continuing implications of the ‘crime’ of suicide: A brief history of the present. International Journal of Law in Context, 12(2), 210–224. Scholar
  55. Tait, G., Carpenter, B., De Leo, D., & Tatz, C. (2015). Problems with the coronial determination of suicide. Mortality, 20(3), 233–247. Scholar
  56. Tait, G., Carpenter, B., Quadrelli, C., & Barnes, M. (2016). Decision-making in a death investigation: Emotion, families and the coroner. Journal of Law and Medicine, 23, 571–581.Google Scholar
  57. Trabsky, M., & Baron, P. (2016). Negotiating grief and trauma in the coronial jurisdiction. Journal of Law and Medicine, 23(3), 582–594.Google Scholar
  58. Vines, P. (2000). Objections to post-mortem examination: Multiculturalism, psychology and legal decision-making. Journal of Law and Medicine, 7, 422–433.Google Scholar
  59. Vines, P., & McFarlane, O. (2000). Investigating to save lives: Coroners and Aboriginal deaths in custody. Indigenous Law Bulletin, 4(27), 8–13.Google Scholar
  60. Walter, T. (2005). Mediator deathwork. Death Studies, 29(5), 383–412. Scholar
  61. Warwick Inquest Group. (1985). The inquest as a theatre for police tragedy: The Davey Case. Journal of Law and Society, 12(1), 35–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Watterson, R., Brown, P., & McKenzie, J. (2008). Coronial reform and the prevention of Indigenous death. Australian Indigenous Law Review, 12(2), 4–26.Google Scholar
  63. Wells, C. (1991). Inquests, inquiries and indictments: The official reception of death by disaster. Legal Studies, 11(1), 71–84. Scholar


  1. Atkinson v Morrow [2005a] QSC 92.Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson v Morrow [2005b] QCA 353.Google Scholar
  3. Keown v Kahn [1999] 1 VR 69.Google Scholar
  4. R (Amin) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2004] 1 AC 653.R v Coroner for North Humberside and Scunthorpe; Ex parte Jamieson [1995] QB 1.Google Scholar
  5. R Goldstein v HM Coroner for Inner North London [2014] EWHC 3889.R (Middleton) v HM Coroner for West Somerset [2004] 2 AC 182.Google Scholar
  6. R (Rotsztein) v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London North [2015] EWHC 2764.Google Scholar


  1. Coroners Act 1997 (ACT).Google Scholar
  2. Coroners Act 2009 (NSW).Google Scholar
  3. Coroners Act 1993 (NT).Google Scholar
  4. Coroners Act 1958 (Qld).Google Scholar
  5. Coroners Act 2003 (Qld).Google Scholar
  6. Coroners Act 2003 (SA).Google Scholar
  7. Coroners Act 1995 (Tas).Google Scholar
  8. Coroners Act 1985 (Vic).Google Scholar
  9. Coroners Act 2008 (Vic).Google Scholar
  10. Coroners Act 1996 (WA).Google Scholar
  11. Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (UK).Google Scholar
  12. Coroners Rules 1984 (UK).Google Scholar

Human Rights Instruments

  1. Council of Europe, European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as amended by Protocols Nos. 11 and 14 (4 November 1950), ETS 5.Google Scholar
  2. United Nations General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (16 December 1966a).Google Scholar
  3. United Nations General Assembly, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (16 December 1966b).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Scott Bray
    • 1
  • Belinda Carpenter
    • 2
  • Michael Barnes
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social and Political SciencesThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia
  2. 2.School of JusticeQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.State Coroner’s CourtGlebeAustralia

Personalised recommendations