In a week long inquest the Court heard how Bristol man, Bob Crane was incredibly affable and articulate. Bob who was 61 when he died was one of Bristol’s best known characters and widely loved. Earlier in his life he had had a successful career in the music industry and travelled the world. Sadly as life went on Bob had increasing difficulties in control bi polar disorder.

Bob was sectioned several times but was released from hospital. Back in his own flat, Bob continued to suffer and as a result of a dispute with his electricity company, his electricity was disconnected and a key meter installed. Whether Bob had capacity to use a key meter was never tested.

Without electricity Bob took to BBQing, the fire brigade were called several times, housing officers were called out, the police were called and mental health services. But Bob remained at home. The inevitable happened and Bob cooking inside, caused a dreadful fire.

The Fire Investigator accepted under Ian’s questioning that Bob may well have become disorientated in his inner hallway which was full of furniture and other items. As too did the Fire Investigator confirm to Ian that Bob’s collection of musical equipment was particularly flammable.

Although the Coroner deemed the fire an accident, the evidence showed that many of the witnesses who had dealt with Bob had not had specific training in mental capacity. One witness accepted following Ian’s questions that she wished she had never written a report which mentioned Bob’s capacity. The independent psychiatrist instructed by the Coroner even going as far as to say that Bob could have been detained under the Mental Health Act at the time of is death.

Ian Brownhill is a public law practitioner at No5 Chambers who often appears in inquests on behalf of families. He is a member of the charity INQUEST Lawyers’ Group and is a well known civil liberties and Court of Protection practitioner.

Ian was instructed by Gus Silverman of Irwin Mitchell, Bristol.

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