CHLS Research seminar: Coronial practice, suicide rates and the problem of intent

The seminar speaker, Belinda Carpenter.


This presentation will focus upon the problematic notion of ‘intent’ within Coronial death investigations, and its relation to widespread concerns over the accuracy of suicide statistics. It details some of the central results from ARC funded research into the manner in which Coroners reach their findings, involving in-depth interviews with over 40 Coroners, both in Australia and England. The research points to a high degree of inconsistency within the various processes of suicide determination; it details concerns over approaches to issues of capacity and standards of proof, as well as significant issues relating to different cultural understandings of suicide; and it also outlines practical and philosophical difficulties with the construction of this category of death itself. It is suggested that, among a complex range of other issues, confusion over the meaning of ‘intent’, as well as a very restrictive understanding of its possible boundaries, both have a significant role to play in the ongoing Coronial-authored underestimation of suicide.


Belinda Carpenter joined the School of Justice from Flinders University in 1995. In 2011 she published Sex, Crime and Morality (Willan Publishing 2012), with SL Hayes & AE Dwyer. In 2012 she published Justice in Society (Federation Press 2012), with M Ball, and in 2013 she published The Politics of Sex Trafficking: A Moral Geography (Palgrave Macmillan 2013), with E O’Brien & SL Hayes. Her other area of research expertise is death investigation. In 2004 she gained an ARC Linkage grant with the Departments of Health and Justice and Attorney General to investigate the decision-making of coroners under the new Coroners Act (2003). The findings from this research have been widely published and formed the basis for three more grants in 2008 and 2009, exploring in more detail the issues surrounding a death investigation. In 2012 she received another ARC grant on death investigation and the findings from this, which explored the ways in which coronial staff engaged with religious and cultural difference is now being published. Most recently she has begun work on the issues of suicide determination.


Date: Thursday 27 April 2017

Time: 1.00pm to 2.30pm. Lunch will be available from 1.00pm outside the moot court.

Venue: Martin Building, Level 2, La Trobe Law School Moot Court (Room 232), La Trobe University, Bundoora

Cost: Free

RVSP: Please register via Eventbrite.

La Trobe