INQUEST meeting with Andrew Smith MP and mother of Connor Sparrowhawk
25 June 2014
INQUEST and Sara Ryan, mother of 18 year old Connor Sparrowhawk, met with Sara’s MP Andrew Smith on 10 June to discuss a number of urgent issues arising from his death.
Connor Sparrowhawk, who had autism, a learning disability and epilepsy, died on 4 July 2013 in the Short Term Assessment and Treatment Team Unit (STATT unit) run by Southern Health NHS Trust. He was found unconscious in the bath.
An independent investigation published in February 2014 found his death could have been prevented.
INQUEST co-ordinated the meeting as part of the 107 days of action campaign.
Among the issues discussed were:
• the lack of support for families following a traumatic death
• the absence of an independent mechanism for the investigation of deaths in mental health care and the fact that Connor’s death was initially dismissed by the Trust as a death from ‘natural causes’;
• that there is no automatic right to legal aid for Connor’s family – or any bereaved family – for legal representation at inquest, despite public funding being available for the Trust and other interested parties, resulting in a serious inequality of arms;
• the lack of openness and transparency about the number of deaths occurring of young people dying in units for people with mental health or learning difficulties;
• the provision of health and social care for people with learning difficulties in Oxford.
Through a combination of intensive pressure from the family and good quality legal representation set up by INQUEST, the family were able to secure an independent investigation into Connor’s death. This is highly unusual as deaths in psychiatric care are not subject to independent scrutiny.
Mr Smith responded extremely positively. He agreed to assist the family and INQUEST in addressing all these issues and pledged his interest and support.
‘At the time of the tragedy, I had no idea of what to do or who to turn to. By luck, I found yourselves and contacted you, the rest as we say is history. On behalf of [my brother's] family, friends and myself I would just like to thank you so much for your professional support and advice during that difficult period and without that help, I do not think we would be where we are today.’
– Brother of a man who died in police custody