David Sandiford represents the Ministry of Justice in two week inquest

June 23, 2021

David Sandiford from Exchange Chambers recently represented the Ministry of Justice in a two week inquest arising out of a death in custody at HMP Exeter. The Coroner was Mr Nicholas Rheinberg.

The inquest explored the deceased’s complex mental health history and in particular his psychosis. Detailed evidence was explored around the suitability of his medication and treatment in the community and in particular whether the deceased ought to have being diverted away from the criminal justice route. Two forensic psychiatrists and a consultant psychiatrist gave evidence, one instructed by the Coroner as an expert. An interesting feature of the inquest was the strong disagreement between the treating psychiatrist in the community, who had known the deceased for some time and the expert forensic psychiatrist who had not known the deceased. One particular area of disagreement arose around the issue of whether the psychosis was truly treatment resistant and the wisdom of decisions around charge or section under the MHA.

Of particular interest to David’s client was the interaction between prison staff and mental health services within the prison. Issues arose around the ACCT and the challenges presented by those with complex mental health presentations in custody. The Coroner was sympathetic to the difficulties faced by the prison officers.

Detailed legal submissions were heard before the Jury was sent out, with the Coroner being persuaded that it was not Galbraith safe to leave any issues around the of frequency of observation by prison officers to the jury nor any issues around the location of the deceased on the 4’s nor the fabric of his cell. Having heard evidence on the prison’s response to the PPO, the Coroner was satisfied that no r.28 was required.

David was instructed by Judith Sabel from GLD.