The Office of Coroner, or Crowner, originated in medieval England shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066, and has been adopted in many countries whose legal systems have at some time been subject to English or United Kingdom law.  The title of the office has varied from “Coronator” during the time of King John to “Crowner” used in Scotland.

One of the early functions of the office was to enquire into sudden and unexpected deaths.  It’s the duty of the Crowner to establish the facts relating to the death.  There was a rigid procedure enforced at every unexpected death, any deviation from the rules being heavily fined.

The rules were so complex that probably most cases showed some slip-up, with consequential financial penalty to someone.  It was common practice either to ignore a dead body or even to hide it.  Some people would even drag a corpse by night to another village so that they would not be burdened with the problem.

Failure to inform the coroner was a serious offence the town or village was liable for additional fine if no felon could be found responsible for this death.  In Devonshire, in the 13th century for instance, a hedge was built around a corpse or buries, to keep the dogs away until coroner arrives.  Failure to preserve the body for coroner to view was illegal.  The coroner obligated to inspect the corpse continued right up until 1980.

This particular function of the Office of the Coroner was modified over the centuries, which presently exist in common law jurisdictions.  The Coroners Act established the territorial jurisdiction of the Coroner.

There are two death investigation systems in Canada: the Coroner system and the Medical Examiners system.  The Coroner system has four main roles to fulfill: investigative, administrative, judicial and preventive.  The Medical Examiner system involves medical and administrative elements.  The coroner and the Medical Examiner both collect medical and other evidence in order to determine the medical cause and manner of death.  The coroner examines the investigative material, comes to a judicial decision concerning the death and makes recommendations to prevent a similar death in future.