I was riding my bike to work, and found someone lying in the grass on public land (the road verge) not private property. He appears to have died of his own intentional actions.

The police were called, blocked off the scene, and did their thing. I have verbally told an officer what I found, but have not made a written or recorded statement. The scene was all cleaned up before I rode home that evening. They have my contact details.

I have no other connection with the deceased than discovering their body.

This occurred in, and so the question is specific to, New Zealand.

For an apparent suicide, will I be required to appear in court or any legal proceedings for any reason?

  • 1
    @nij thank you for that. I do feel the suicide tag is relevant, because its New Zealand has criminal laws governing what can and can't be said when it comes to suicide, or suspected suicide, hence the blended vagueness.
    – Criggie
    Oct 10, 2018 at 11:07
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    According to coronialservices.justice.govt.nz/suicide/…, there are restrictions on what you can say publicly (including on the Internet) about a suspected suicide case. So you may want to use some discretion when posting here. Oct 10, 2018 at 13:45

3 Answers 3


It is possible that you could be required to testify in a coroner's inquest, or in a criminal trial (if it were later determined that a crime was committed despite first impressions to the contrary). You could also conceivably be called to testify in a civil trial concerning, for example, insurance payment eligibility.

But, it is also quite likely that none of these proceedings will happen and that your initial statement to police on the scene will be sufficient for all purposes in the future. The coroner may be satisfied that he needs no further information. Law enforcement may decide that no crime was committed. And, the death certificate's cause of death and date of death may be found to be sufficient in any future civil dispute.

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    Confirmed, In NZ a suicide is not illegal. Assisting a suicide certainly is though.
    – Criggie
    Oct 15, 2018 at 8:45

I've been called back to the police station a week after the event, to make a statement. Constable said (paraphrasing)

the circumstances seem pretty cut and dried at this point so the coroner is unlikely to require any court proceedings.

However that could change if more information came up.

Coroner's Court in New Zealand may take up to 12 months to be convened/called.

Almost two years later, I have been notified of the coroner's inquest and that a formal court hearing will not be necessary in this instance. Admittedly C19 could have added ~9 months, but the initial reading of "up to 12 months" was an underestimate.

Added for more closure.

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    This would also be true in England and Wales (the jurisdiction I am familiar with). Other common-law jurisdictions are very likely to be similar. Oct 15, 2018 at 12:50

Suppose that later evidence is found that seems to establish that the apparent suicide was in fact a murder. In such a case a witness to the finding of the body could be summo0ned to testify whenever the case is eventually tried, which could be many years later.

This is all highly improbable, as the idea of an apparent suicide being actually a murder is more common in fiction than in fact, and trials delayed for many years in murder cases are also rare, although not unheard of. But it is legally possible.

A summons to a Coroner's Court is more plausible, although the odds are still against it. this could be up to a year later.

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