Change in law sees increase in inquests in Derbyshire

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A new law has resulted in a rise in the number of inquests in Derbyshire.

The Supreme Court ruled that people who lack the capacity to make decisions about their care - such as people living in care homes who have dementia - are ‘deprived of their liberty’ (DoLS). This means staff can prevent them from leaving.

The number of people that fall into this category has risen in the UK from 13,000 to 100,000. Under DoLS, an inquest will have to be held following a person’s death should they die at the home, even if it is was from natural causes.

Derbyshire coroner, Dr Robert Hunter, said it had led to an extra 400 inquests a year in Derbyshire, and said it was ‘an unfortunate circumstance of the law.’ He said it had created more work for social services, coroners court staff, and care home staff who do the application.

He said: “It began in Borehamwood. An elderly man had dementia. He settled into his care home and loved it and never attempted to leave.

“He wasn’t detained under the Mental Health Act or DoLS. One day he decided to leave and staff were faced with charges of false imprisonment.

“It ended up going to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which stated there needed to be a legal framework, hence the new act.”

At the moment around four inquests a week are held in Derbyshire as a result of the 2014 ruling, a number that Dr Hunter thinks will increase.