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Coronial practice and suicide rates: Beyond reasonable doubt?

IHR Seminar

Speaker: Professor Belinda Carpenter of Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Event details



In response to widespread concerns about the accuracy of suicide statistics, this presentation will focus on the standard of proof used in coroners’ investigations of death by suicide. We present recent research into the ways in which coroners reach their verdicts, based on in-depth interviews with over 40 coroners, both in Australia and England. The results reveal a high degree of inconsistency within the various processes of suicide determination. They touch on issues of capacity and intent, different cultural understandings of suicide, and practical and philosophical difficulties with the construction of this category of death itself. We suggest that, among other issues, the necessary standard of proof and the wide range of ways in which it is interpreted—mostly very conservative—has a significant role to play in the ongoing coronial-authored underestimation of suicide.

Professor Carpenter has been conducting research into coroners’ decision making processes for more than 10 years and has written extensively on the subject, focusing also on the coroner’s role vis-à-vis the grieving family and the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence. Her other research interests include sex trafficking and prostitution.


Baring Court, 112