In September, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) published new guidelines designed to ensure standards for barristers working within the Coroners’ Courts. This includes a set of competences which spell out the standards expected of barristers by us and the public, and guidance and other resources to help make sure that the standards are met.

The guidelines and resources were published jointly by the BSB, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and CILEx Regulation. This means that all lawyers practising within the Coroners’ Courts are expected to adhere to the same set of professional standards.

The competences, guidelines and resources were developed with the assistance of the Chief Coroner and his office, the Deputy Chief Coroner, the Ministry of Justice, practitioners (barristers, solicitors and legal executives), coroners, bereaved people who have been involved in inquests, and organisations that provide help and support such as the Coroners’ Court Support Service (CCSS) and INQUEST.

While we are also aware of examples of good practice by barristers, we have introduced the new guidelines in response to concerns about the standards of practice among some lawyers in Coroners’ Courts. In particular, the guidelines reflect issues raised about the adversarial approach adopted by some lawyers, and public reports on the experience of bereaved families in Coroner’s Court cases. The resources, available on our website, contain videos explaining these concerns from a wide range of perspectives including from a practising barrister and from a member of a bereaved family. There are videos, too, on how the competences should be followed in practice. I strongly recommend that all barristers practising in Coroners’ Courts watch these videos and read our guidance. They are designed to be insightful and helpful for anyone practising. You can read the guidelines and watch the videos at:

The competences expected from those practising in a Coroner’s Court complement the wider competences expected from all barristers in all aspects of practice as outlined in our Professional Statement for Barristers at:

The new competences set targeted expectations for barristers working in Coroners’ Courts. They cover:

  • Law and procedure: This includes keeping your knowledge and understanding of the jurisdiction and procedure of the Coroner’s Court up to date, applying it effectively, and assisting the coroner in the disclosure of all facts relevant to the inquisitorial process.
  • Dealing with vulnerability: The competences expected here include recognising the central role of bereaved families and having the knowledge and understanding of their vulnerability during an inquest.
  • Communication and engagement: The competences expected in this section include making sure that you communicate and engage effectively with the various people who are involved in inquests. This involves adapting your style of communication to the unique purpose of inquests, thinking carefully about how you communicate with your clients and/or vulnerable people taking part in the inquest, and making sure that your clients and/or others understand the purpose of the inquest and their role within it.
  • Raising awareness of key organisations: This includes understanding how organisations and agencies relevant to the Coroner’s Court can assist and support family members, witnesses and other interested persons, and working with those organisations as appropriate, where it will benefit them.

The above is a summary. Please read the full list of competences at:, reflect on them, and address any learning and development needs when fulfilling your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. When renewing your practising certificate next year, you will be asked if you work in this practice area. Please ensure that if you do practise in inquests and inquiries that you inform us.

Coroners will be encouraged to address practice that falls short of these competences either during the hearing itself or through raising their concerns with us as the regulator. We hope that you will find the new resources helpful.