We appreciate that the death of a loved one can be an emotional and stressful time. The role of the police during this period is often not fully understood. We've put together some information to explain how and why we might be involved, as well as some organisations which may be able to give further support.

Why are the police here?

Police officers attend all incidents of sudden or unexpected deaths that occur outside of a hospital or medical setting. Police are the initial representatives for the Coroner’s Office. The attendance of the police will also allow for the ambulance service to be released and continue their duties. If the death is expected, the GP should be able to attend.

Who will attend?

In most cases, the first police officers to arrive on scene will be in uniform. These officers will collect information about the circumstances of the death and relay this to their supervisors and to the Coroner’s Office. Officers will also check the body of the deceased and note the presence of any injury.

If you wish to be present during this or would prefer an officer of the same sex to complete the check, please let the officers know and every effort will be made to accommodate your requests.

If other officers arrive, this will usually be a detective and a sergeant. The role of these officers is to ensure there are no issues of concern surrounding the death.

What happens next?

Once it has been established that there is no need for a police investigation to take place, the police will contact the coroner’s officer and arrange for the deceased to be taken to the local mortuary. If the next of kin is not present, they will usually stay with you until this is done. If you would prefer the officers to leave you after the undertakers have been arranged, please let them know this.

The officers may ask further questions. This is to obtain enough details to make a formal report to the coroner about the circumstances of the death.

In some cases, a post-mortem examination will need to be completed in order to establish a probable cause of death. This is a decision made by the coroner and is based on a number of factors, such as the age of the deceased and when they last saw their GP. Police officers will request details of any medication belonging to the deceased and may take it with them when they leave. This assists the coroner to determine the cause of death.

Please tell officers if you or your family have any cultural or religious needs. We want to make sure the needs of people from all different backgrounds are respected. Where possible, coroners officers will take religious needs into account whilst acting in accordance with the law. Please be reassured that coroners officers are experienced in responding to questions you may have about different faiths and religious practice, or individual preference and choice.

Personal items

If there are any personal items you wish to retrieve before the deceased being taken to the mortuary, please ask the police or undertakers on scene.

Any personal effects remaining with the deceased will be returned to the next of kin by the coroner at a later date. Police will take items that can assist in ascertaining the cause of death. Items will be recorded and you may be asked to countersign for their removal. Police will not usually take items of value, but will advise you to leave premises secure.

What to do next

When someone dies there are many decisions and arrangements to be made. Sadly, these have to be made at a time of personal distress. Some of these things can be done by a close relative or friend; others need to be done by the executor or administrator of the estate: the people appointed to carry out the terms of a will.

There are several things you need to do:

  • Get a medical certificate from a doctor or the coroner; you’ll need this to register the death.
  • Register the death within five days; you’ll then get the documents you need for the funeral.

You should register the death at the Register Office in the area where the person died. You can register the death if you are:

  • a relative
  • someone present at the death
  • the person making arrangements with the funeral directors

You'll most likely need the following:

  •  National Insurance number 
  •  NHS number and date and place of birth
  • Arrange the funeral, you can use a funeral director or arrange it yourself. Please note that you can't finalise the funeral until after the death has been registered.

If you prefer, you can also listen to this information by calling freephone 0800 0329996.

Information about registration of a death, the role of the coroner and arranging the funeral can be found here.

Further support

The death of a loved one can be a deeply traumatic event. Each of us will react in different ways. Grieving emotions can be frightening and sometimes more help is needed.There are many organisations, each dealing with a different area of support, who may be able to help you.

Citizens Advice Bureau
03444 111 444

Samaritans
116 123

Cruse Bereavement Care
0808 808 1677