Barristers have welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to appoint the first-ever minister for suicide prevention as they continue to handle tragic cases where mental health issues play a significant role.

No5 Barristers’ Chambers is regularly instructed to act on behalf of family members at inquests investigating the suspected suicide of a loved one, and in cases where the deceased person may have been let down by professionals or bodies responsible for providing care.

A Suicide Statistics Report published by the Samaritans, records that in 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland. In the UK, men remain three times as likely to take their own lives than women, with the highest suicide rate in the UK among men aged 45-49.

Clinical negligence specialist Mamta Gupta, of No5 Barristers’ Chambers, says: “Mental health issues are often present when an individual is thinking of taking their own life and recognising that they need help is a major step for them.

“It is therefore critical that, when someone who is displaying suicidal intent is presented to medical staff, that the appropriate referrals, treatment and care are provided.

“Sadly, we repeatedly see failings within the treatment process, involving voluntary and involuntary mental health patients, people receiving community care or people without formal mental health diagnoses.”

No5 Barristers’ Chambers has a wide practice across England and Wales through offices in London, Birmingham, Leicester and Bristol, and members of its Clinical Negligence and Public Law Teams have extensive experience in the provision of legal representation at inquests. 

Barrister Ian Brownhill, of No5 Barristers’ Chambers’ Public Law Group, observes that there has been a whole gamut of cases where legal help was needed, from inquests to representing people charged with causing a public nuisance as they express suicidal intent.

Ian says: “We welcome the Government’s decision to appoint a minister for suicide prevention as this tragic act and the issues of mental health that surround it are impacting on thousands of people every year and cause extreme distress for the bereaved family and friends. 

“A Coroner’s investigation has a very public aspect and we would recommend appropriate legal representation to ensure that the full evidence comes out and that the family can obtain the full facts regarding the death of their loved one.”

Barrister Dr Jonathan Punt says: “It is important that the correct legal tests are applied to determine whether the death was properly attributable to suicide, and to guide the Coroner towards fulfilling the statutory duty to make a report with respect to the prevention of further deaths where the inquest has revealed a continuing risk. Good legal support also allows for the ability to obtain damages in subsequent civil litigation, where appropriate.”

In addition to acting for bereaved families, members of No5 Barristers’ Chambers also act for the prison service, police forces, NHS Mental Health Services and local authorities.