Research Repository

Between legality and empathy : an examination of the coroner’s inquest and its impact on the emotions of those bereaved by road death

Pearson, Melanie (2020) Between legality and empathy : an examination of the coroner’s inquest and its impact on the emotions of those bereaved by road death. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

Melanie Pearson PhD Thesis with corrections.pdf

Download (2MB) | Preview


The general acceptance of the – often fatal – risks associated with high–speed transport, can be seen as a global public health issue. In the UK, ‘survivors’ groups’ are condemnatory about the trivialisation of road death by a system of justice which overlooks victims’ rights and increases the suffering of the bereaved. For those who suffer the loss of a family member in a road collision, the traumatic and complicated grief they experience sees them as ‘co–victims’ of such a death. This difficulty is compounded when they find that the collision event is deemed to be non–culpable, forcing them to encounter part of the Justice System in England and Wales which is little known and less understood: the coronial system. As an administrative system encapsulating the inquest, the coronial system sets itself up to establish the ‘truth’ of how a person has died in order to categorise, commit to record and ultimately register a sudden death, while at the same time investigating without apportioning blame. From the moment of the death, through the initial coronial investigation and into the inquest hearing itself, a number of mismatches between what the bereaved expect – both morally and symbolically – from the State and what it seeks to provide, are apparent. Policymakers’ reforms and coroners’ comportment have attempted to balance these needs, and families’ ability to cope with their grief is moderated by their agency and outlook. However, in investigating whether the emotions of the bereaved were negatively impacted by the coronial system, this thesis examines the proposition that the process and the conduct of those working within it, amounts not only to an acceptance by the State of a road death, but moreover as a justification for it. In so doing, the thesis aims to confirm or deny the status of the bereaved not only as co–victims, but as secondary victims of that system.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: coroner inquest road death emotions bereaved
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Melanie Pearson
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2020 16:45
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2020 16:45

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item