No Inquests for Deaths under Deprivation of Liberty
Policing and Crime Act 2017 sees changes introduced, meaning inquests no longer have to be held if a person dies while subject to a DoLS
Reforms came into force on 3rd April, resulting in the elimination of the duty of coroners to hold an inquest if a person dies while deprived of their liberty. Changes introduced mean that people are no longer classed as having passed away in ‘state detention’ if they die during deprivation of their liberty or under a Court of Protection order. This used to trigger an automatic requirement for an inquest.
The changes are as a result of a string of warnings, including those from the chief coroner for England and Wales, expressing concern that the previous requirements for all DoLS deaths to go to inquest had caused considerable distress to the families of those who had passed away, as well as creating unnecessary burdens on services.
In 2015, figures reached 7,183 for the number of inquests held by coroners under the DoLS which chief coroner said was one of the “unanticipated and unwanted consequences of statute and case law combined”.
The chief coroner for England and Wales has issued guidance on the new requirements which details that coroners are still obligated to investigate where there is a concern about the care or treatment the deceased received or where the medical cause of death is unknown. Furthermore, a person will still be considered to be in ‘state detention’ if they are deprived of their liberty by a public authority without authorisation under the Mental Capacity Act and in which case, an inquest will need to be held.
The new law is applicable to all deaths which happen after 3rd April 2017 with new guidance saying that the date “is not tied to the notification of death to the coroner, but is dependent on the date on which death takes place.” All deaths that happened before the 3rd April will still require an inquest.