Government to Abolish Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards Inquests Duty

Prof. Martin Green OBE
Prof. Martin Green OBE
Coroners will no longer be required to hold an inquest for anyone who dies while subject to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), following an amendment to the law.

The amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill will mean that a person who dies while subject to a DoLS order will no longer be considered to have died in state detention. In doing so it will remove an automatic requirement for coroners to hold an inquest.

Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are designed to keep people safe, but they have long been a bone of contention with the care home sector and families owing to the unintended consequence meaning if someone is subject to a Dols their death must be investigated. This means that older people with dementia, whose deaths are expected, are frequently subjected to investigations after death.

Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England says:

“Baroness Finlay’s amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill is extremely welcome. Care homes need to be a place of safety, but our members have reported uniformed police officers attending care homes under their legal duties to investigate a death of a resident making it a crime scene even when the death was expected. This is extremely upsetting for families, care home staff and fellow residents. Investigations into deaths under DoLs take needless time which prevents families from being able to mourn and proceed with funeral arrangements. This does not allow for the calm and dignified death that most people and their families want”.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Chair of National Capacity Forum, spoke at Care England’s conference last week. Her amendment, supported by the Government, amends the meaning of state detention in Section 48 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The Law Commission is due to report on DoLS early next month and it will be interesting to see whether they make further comment on this process.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff says:

“I am delighted that the Government have accepted this change, initially proposed by Ann Coffey MP, which should come into force early next year. It will save a great deal of distress to the bereaved. Last year alone there were over six and a half thousand unnecessary inquests. When someone subject to DoLS dies of natural causes and the death was expected, an inquest will no longer be required. But of course if there are any unusual circumstances, then the coroner must be informed.”