Who's who in the Courtroom
The following people are typically present during an inquest in the Coroner's Court.
The Coroner presides over the proceedings. The Coroner will generally be a magistrate of the Local Court and will wear a black robe. The Coroner should be addressed as 'Your Honour' when you are in court.
The Coroner sits behind a large desk at the front of the courtroom called the bench. He or she listens to all of the evidence and, at the conclusion of the proceedings, makes a finding.
Counsel assisting the Coroner
Counsel assisting the Coroner is generally a police prosecutor with specialised training in coronial matters. They do not wear a police uniform. In more complex cases, the Counsel assisting the Coroner is a barrister instructed by a solicitor from the Crown Solicitor's Office.
There may be a number of lawyers in the courtroom. Their job is to represent the interests of the various interested parties, and require leave form the Coroner to appear at an inquest and ask quesions. They sit at a table in the middle of the courtroom called the bar table.
The Court Officer ensures that the hearing runs as smoothly as possible. He or she assists the Coroner with documents used in the case, such as exhibits. They also administer the oath or affirmation to the witnesses, which is a promise to tell the truth.
The Court Monitor electronically records the hearing and types certain parts of what is being said.
A witness is a person who knows something about the case. The Counsel assisting the Coroner and the lawyers ask the witness questions and the witness gives evidence about what they know. There is often more than one witness. Witnesses are not allowed to talk about the case to other witnesses.
Witnesses sit in a seat called the witness box, and speak into a microphone. Sometimes a witness gives their evidence by video link. Witnesses are allowed to stay inside the courtroom after they have finished giving evidence.
Sometimes a witness will have a support person who can sit near them in the courtroom. The support person is not permitted to answer the questions being asked of the witness.
Sometimes, an interpreter will help a witness understand what is being said by translating the question and answer into another language or other form of communication such as Auslan. Interpreters are arranged by the court.
Journalists are usually allowed to sit and listen in court. Members of the media are allowed to write down what is said in court and sometimes it will be reported in the news.
Members of the public are generally allowed to watch and listen in court. They sit at the back of the court in a section called the public gallery. People in the public gallery are not allowed to talk or interrupt the court.