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Death Scene Jurisprudence: The Social Life of Coronial Facts

Griffith Law Review
Volume 19 Issue 3 (2010)

Abstract: Until recently, the coronial jurisdiction had received little substantive socio-legal or criminological attention, despite its key role in fact-finding around criminal justice matters such as deaths in custody. Recent attention has focused on the promise of the jurisdiction's pro-therapeutic potential, which is directly related to its purview with regard to death and the capacity to produce social benefits and restorative outcomes from tragic circumstances. Part of the appeal of the coronial jurisdiction is its ability to account for the context of death, where 'death' is the focus of the process as opposed to questions of liability. An inquisitorial framework providing for wide coronial powers to investigate and inquire into death informs this capacity. Correspondingly, this capacity derives from coronial evolution, aided by reforms that have whittled the jurisdiction down and away from its earlier conversations with the criminal jurisdiction towards the attitude of avoiding death. The article argues that, despite this refinement of the coronial role, tensions emerge when coroners find facts, highlighting that coronial inquests are not always straightforwardly concluded, nor are the facts of death easily found. To demonstrate this, the article examines the legal trajectory of the 2004 Queensland death in custody of Mulrunji, including the judicial review of the original coronial findings and the reopening of the inquest.

To cite this article: Bray, Rebecca Scott. Death Scene Jurisprudence: The Social Life of Coronial Facts [online]. Griffith Law Review, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2010: [567]-592. Availability: <;dn=703526077409878;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 1038-3441. [cited 10 Oct 15].

Personal Author: Bray, Rebecca Scott; Source: Griffith Law Review, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2010: [567]-592 Document Type: Journal Article ISSN: 1038-3441 Subject: Criminal jurisdiction; Prisoners--Death; Doomadgee, Mulrunji; Coroners--Legal status, laws, etc.; Criminal justice, Administration of; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Lecturer, Socio-Legal Studies, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney

Database: Humanities & Social Sciences Collection