Wed, 29 May 2019
Counsel at No5 Barristers’ Chambers represented a Detective Chief Inspector, who was both a properly interested person and a witness in proceedings.
Colin Banham was instructed to represent the interests of a DCI at the inquest touching on the death of an officer, who had been suspended from duty and committed suicide. The DCI had been appointed as the Welfare Officer for the deceased. The issues in the case revolved around the provision of welfare by individual officers, the systems in place at Surrey Constabulary and the sharing of information (in particular, by the Professional Standards Department). All witnesses were asked questions about the months leading up to the death and the processes in place.
After hearing submissions on the potential for a narrative, the Coroner circulated a Briefing Note and Summing-Up with a number of options for the jury. All interested persons submitted written documents setting out their own position on how the matter should be left.
The jury concluded that PC Blackham, on 29 November 2016, took his own life by suicide in Staines. In the opinion of the jury, the following principal factors contributed to Joshua’s death:
- Joshua’s personal circumstances were multiple and complex in the period leading up to his death. Each of these circumstances will have placed significant stress on Joshua and in combination are likely to have contributed to his decision to end his life.
- The welfare system in place within Surrey Police at the time of Joshua’s arrest was insufficient. Although a welfare officer was appointed quickly, overall governance, policy, process and training were inadequate to provide the welfare support Joshua needed. Information sharing between all stakeholders was insufficient to keep the welfare officer adequately informed and is likely to have contributed to a lack of support given to Joshua.
- The administration, communication, controls and process in place within the NHS prior to Joshua’s death failed to provide him with the mental health support he was referred for by his GP.
The Coroner indicated that she was minded to require a response from Surrey Police on the question of prevention of future deaths (Regulations 28 of the Coroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013), especially on the question of communication between PSD and Welfare Officers, how Forces deal with suspended officers should a Welfare Officer be off-duty, and whether PSD should conduct arrests of police officers when at work.