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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions >> Dove v HM Assistant Coroner for Teesside And Hartlepool & Anor  EWHC 2511 (Admin) (17 September 2021)
Cite as:  EWHC 2511 (Admin)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
Mrs Justice Farbey
His Honour Judge Teague QC
Chief Coroner of England and Wales
| JOY DOVE
|- and –
|(1) HM ASSISTANT CORONER
FOR TEESSIDE AND HARTLEPOOL
(2) DR SHAREEN RAHMAN
- and –
|SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WORK AND PENSIONS
Mr Jonathan Hough QC and Mr Anthony Jones (instructed by Middlesbrough Council) for the First Respondent
Mr David Griffiths (instructed by Government Legal Department) for the Interested Party
Ms Claire Watson (instructed by MDU Services Limited) for the Second Respondent made no submissions
Hearing dates: 22 & 23 June 2021
Crown Copyright ©
Covid-19 Protocol: This judgment will be handed down remotely by circulation to the parties or their representatives by email, release to BAILII and publication on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website. The date and time for hand-down will be deemed to be.
Mrs Justice Farbey:
Welfare Reform Act 2007: provisions for ESA
Mandatory reconsideration and appeal against Department decision
"I will make a note when I do my deliberations about this, the stress factor and the ESA claim, but as I explained at the outset, unfortunately, you know, as a Coroner and the inquest, it's not our position to question any decisions made by the Department of Work and Pensions. That's just outside the remit of this court."
"Jodey had her ESA claim turned down in the weeks before her death, and her mother believes, as does her sister, that this was causing her extra stress…
Jodey's mum believes the extra stress Jodey was under in relation to her ESA claim was a contributing factor in her death."
The Coroner gave a short-form conclusion of suicide.
i. The Department had failed to alert CHDA to Ms Whiting's request for a home visit in relation to the ESA reassessment.
ii. There was no evidence that the Department had attempted to telephone Ms Whiting to establish why she had not attended the HCP appointment which was in breach of departmental guidance on vulnerable claimants.
iii. There was no evidence that the Department had considered a safeguard visit which was again in breach of departmental guidance on vulnerable claimants.
iv. The Department had failed to contact Ms Whiting's GP for information about her illness, despite Ms Whiting's request that this should be done and despite the Department's awareness of her vulnerability.
v. Ms Whiting was told to submit a written request for mandatory consideration in writing when this could have been done by telephone.
vi. The Department had failed to consider Ms Whiting's mental health condition and had failed to give careful consideration to her case.
On the evidence before this court, I see no reason to disagree with the report's conclusions.
"Ms Whiting's vulnerabilities would have been substantially affected by [the Department's] negative decisions…with a likely deterioration in her mental state in terms of her…suicidal ideation….
[T]here was likely to have been a causal link between [the Department's] failings outlined in the…ICE report and Jodey's state of mind immediately before her death.
On the balance of probabilities…it is likely that her mental state at the time of her death would have been substantially affected by the reported [the Department's] failings."
The applicant's views
The nature of the application and the court's approach
"This section applies where, on an application by or under the authority of the Attorney-General, the High Court is satisfied as respects a coroner ('the coroner concerned') either –
(a) that he refuses or neglects to hold an inquest or an investigation which ought to be held; or
(b) where an inquest or an investigation has been held by him, that (whether by reason of fraud, rejection of evidence, irregularity of proceedings, insufficiency of inquiry, the discovery of new facts or evidence or otherwise) it is necessary or desirable in the interests of justice that an investigation (or as, the case may be, another investigation) should be held."
The coronial jurisdiction
"Where necessary in order to avoid a breach of any Convention rights (within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998 (c. 42)), the purpose mentioned in subsection (1)(b) is to be read as including the purpose of ascertaining in what circumstances the deceased came by his or her death."
State responsibility under article 2 of the Convention
"the authorities knew or ought to have known at the time of the existence of a real and immediate risk to the life of an identified individual or individuals from the criminal acts of a third party and that they failed to take measures within the scope of their powers which, judged reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that risk."
"In particular, where a state assumes responsibility for an individual, whether by taking him into custody, by imprisoning him, detaining him under mental health legislation, conscripting him into the armed forces, the state assumes responsibility for that individual's safety. So in these circumstances police authorities, prison authorities, health authorities and the armed forces are all subject to positive obligations to protect the lives of those in their care".
ESA Regulations 29 and 35
"(1) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if…
(2) (a) …
(b) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work." (Emphasis added.)
Grounds for seeking a fresh inquest
i. There has been an insufficiency of inquiry by the Coroner at common law;
ii. There has been an insufficiency of inquiry by the Coroner under article 2;
iii. Fresh evidence is now available which may reasonably lead to the conclusion that the substantial truth about how Ms Whiting died was not revealed at the first inquest; and
iv. A different conclusion would be likely at a fresh inquest.
The parties addressed each of these grounds in turn, and I shall do likewise.
Ground 1: inquiry at common law
Ground 2: article 2 of the Convention
Assumption of responsibility
Nature of the risk
Ground 3: fresh evidence
Ground 4: potential for a different conclusion by a coroner
Lord Justice Warby:
HHJ Teague QC :