The purpose of an inquest is to ascertain who the person was and to establish the following: when, where and how they died.
On some occasions a jury will be required, in particular when the death occurs in prison or other state detention, police custody or results from an accident at work. The procedure of a jury inquest is somewhat different, however the function and purpose remains the same.
The Treasure Act 1996 came into force in 1997 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Finds are defined under the guidelines within the Act. Finds believed to be treasure must be reported to the Coroner within 14 days, the finder will be asked to take the object to a local museum or archaeological body. If the object is declared not to be treasure the museum or archaeological body will inform the Coroner who may decide to give directions that the find should be returned without holding an inquest.
If the find is believed to be treasure, they will inform the British Museum the museums will then decide whether they or any other museum may wish to acquire it. If no museum wishes to acquire the find, the Secretary of State will be able to disclaim it. When this happens the Coroner will notify the occupier and landowner that he/she intends to return the object to the finder after 28 days unless an objection is received. If the Coroner receives an objection, the find will be retained until the dispute has been settled.
If a museum wants to acquire the find then the Coroner will hold an inquest to decide whether or not it is treasure. The Coroner will inform the finder, occupier and landowner and they will be able to question witnesses at the inquest. Treasure inquests will not normally be held with a jury. If the find is declared to be treasure, then it will be taken to the British Museum so it can be valued by the Treasure Valuation Committee. The Committee consists of independent experts who will commission a valuation from one or more experts drawn from the trade.
Useful contacts :
Co-ordinator for all Treasure finds from England:
Treasure Registrar, c/o Department of Coins and Medals, British Museum, London WC1B 3DG Tel: 020 7323 8611; Fax: 020 7323 8546
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, Chequer Road, Doncaster DN1 2AE Tel: 01302 734293; Fax: 01302 735409
Co-ordinator for South and West Yorkshire (from December 2003): Finds liaison officer c/o Doncaster Museum and West Yorkshire Archaeology Service, Wakefield
Further Information :
Telephone: General Office: 01302 737135
Coroners officers : 01302 737136, 01302 737137