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In 2015, death in custody accounted for 7,637 deaths

When someone dies in “state custody” a full inquest is almost always necessary. In 2015, death in custody accounted for 7,637 deaths.

The number of such inquests has recently seen a spike following the Supreme Court Decision in 2014 significantly increased the definition of those considered to be deprived of their liberty. The court determined that a two stage test should be applied. Firstly, whether the individual is under continuous supervision and control and secondly whether the person is free to leave. This second test is not conditional upon whether the person wants, or indeed has the capacity to leave, but rather what would the people supervising and controlling them do if they tried to leave.

The resulting change has seen the number of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard applications soar over the last 2 years. In March 2014 there were 2,300 active authorisations. By 31st March 2015 there were 36,215 active authorisations. Further while there were 11,300 applications in 2013-2014 there were 83,100 applications in the first 3 quarters of 2014-15.

Examples of people “deprived of their liberty” include patients detained under the Mental Health Act as well as those who are a danger to themselves if left unsupervised and living within protective care regimes.

A significant proportion will be patients with dementia living in care homes or hospitals. While this may go some way to explain the 7,183 deaths in 2015 of patients considered to be deprived of their liberty and the high number of findings of death by natural causes it does not explain the 430 deaths which were not concluded to be natural causes.

When combined with the 454 deaths in other forms of custody and the Chief Coroners recent report indicating that “levels of self-inflicted deaths in custody are particularly high” the question then begs to be asked how many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Even for those whose deaths may be due to natural causes this does not mean that death was not preventable by appropriate care.

Pursuant to the European Convention on Human Rights the state has a duty to protect the lives of those in detention. It is therefore possible to seek agreement from the Coroner to a wider scope to the inquest to consider if the “Right to Life” has been breached by those caring for the deceased.

If your loved one has died while “detained” and you have any concerns about either the circumstances of the detention or the circumstances of their death then you may wish to get in touch to discuss this with our medical negligence team.

Linder Myers Solicitors has one of the largest and most experienced teams of specialist clinical and medical negligence lawyers in England and Wales, who are readily able to listen and discuss incidents of negligence involving a doctor, healthcare professional or hospital staff member.

The team has dedicated solicitors who specifically deal with varying types of medical or clinical negligence. They have helped numerous clients to claim compensation and understand the type of concerns you or a family member may have after receiving negligent care or having experienced a delay in the provision of treatment.

Linder Myers solicitors can assist on, and where necessary provide representation during, an inquest as well as advise on making a formal complaint, assist with representation and provide guidance on how to pursue a medical / clinical negligence legal claim.

For an informal and free discussion please contact a member of the medical negligence team on 0800 085 3295. Alternatively, please email a summary of your potential claim and contact details to clinnegenquiries@lindermyers.co.uk.

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