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INQUEST’s Parliamentary event 11 February: Deaths in Mental Health Detention: An investigation framework fit for purpose?

17 March 2015

(INQUEST's Co-Director Deborah Coles and Michael Antoniou, bereaved family member)

On Wednesday 11 February, INQUEST published a ground breaking report: Deaths in Mental Health Detention: An investigation framework fit for purpose?, to a packed house in parliament.

This thought provoking and engaging event brought together a diverse mix of over 60 policymakers, parliamentarians, bereaved families, lawyers and mental health charities.
Deborah Coles, INQUEST Co-Director, opened the discussion by introducing the key findings and concerns:

“INQUEST’s findings indicate that on average three people die in mental health settings per week. Yet no independent investigative mechanism is in place to investigate these deaths. INQUEST is calling for a more open culture which enables learning to prevent the future deaths of vulnerable individuals.”

The event considered the main findings of INQUEST's report:

  1. The high number of deaths in mental health settings (for detained and de-facto detained patients) by comparison to any other death in a detained setting (i.e. in police custody, immigration detention centre, prison).
  2. The lack of an independent mechanism to investigate mental health deaths pre-inquest, similar to one following police or prison deaths, and the impact this has on bereaved families and on public confidence
  3. The need for better collation and publication of statistics on deaths of mental health in-patients to make fundamental changes to policy and practice and prevent further fatalities.

Michael Antoniou, husband of Janey Antoniou who died in mental health detention, shared his personal story, highlighting the difficulties he faced when seeking information about his wife’s death

"There was a total lack of cooperation from the trust’s legal team. They lost sight of what really mattered.  Every step of the way was a struggle. I had amazing support from INQUEST but I think majority of the people would find it impossible to get this support… This is not about stats. This is someone’s family member."

The work of INQUEST was also highly praised by a number of speakers. Lord Kamlesh Patel commented, "It is amazing that a small team of seven produces such high quality work. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work INQUEST does.”

And Jeremy Corbyn added,“My thanks to INQUEST not just for the report but all the other work. You have incredible determination.”

INQUEST is extremely grateful to all the families who travelled the distance to attend the event and who shaped the findings and objectives of our report.  A further thanks goes to all the cross party Parliamentarians who declared their support for the work INQUEST carries out, including Lord Patel, Lord Rambotham, Baroness Stern, Lord Harris, Alison Seabeck MP, James Morris MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Charles Walker MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Based on this extremely successful event, we are delighted that Jeremy Corbyn MP and Luciana Berger MP, raised our concerns during a parliamentary debate on mental health on Thursday 12 February. And we are extremely grateful to Charles Walker MP for holding an adjournment debate to discuss our findings on 27 February, where he commented, “I congratulate Deborah Coles and INQUEST on publishing an extremely important document”

INQUEST will ensure that this report continues to shape our future campaigning and policy work and that the issues remain on the agenda.


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