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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1987 Dec;8(4):354-61.

Forensic medicine in Great Britain. II. The origins of the British medicolegal system and some historic cases.

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University of London, England.


The British medicolegal system, which today is largely based on the Coroner's Act of 1887, developed slowly, beginning with the election of county coroners in the 12th century. The duties of the medieval coroner included the collection of revenues due to the Crown, recordkeeping, presiding over inquests, and overseeing juries in cases of sudden or unnatural death. However, by the 14th century, the influence of the coroner had diminished and the office fell into disrepute. The practice of forensic medicine in the United Kingdom can be dated from the 17th century, when the first autopsy was recorded. However, the first original textbook on this subject did not appear in Britain until the early 19th century. Around the same time, due to a wave of homicidal poisonings, toxicology emerged as an important discipline. A number of historical cases of homicidal poisoning, as well as several cases of homicide by external wounding, are discussed herein. In the present day, with the passage of various laws, the British coroner deals only with sudden and unnatural death and treasure trove.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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