DoLS Inquest: No Longer Mandatory
From next Monday it will no longer be mandatory to hold an inquest into every death where the deceased was subject to a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) authorisation. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 comes into force on Monday, 3 April 2017. Tucked at the end of the Act, in section 178, is the provision which will bring welcome relief to coroners. It amends the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 by excluding DoLS from the definition of state detention, meaning that DoLS cases do not fall into the category of deaths where an inquest is automatically required.
The Chief Coroner has issued new Guidance on Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, Guidance 16A
The new Guidance reflects the legal change, making clear that “deaths under DoLS” are not automatically to be considered as being under state detention where the death occurs after 3 April. The Guidance also addresses the implications of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Ferreira. Coroners, and practitioners, will need to pay close attention to other factors before jumping to a conclusion that an inquest is not required: as the Guidance says:
“Of course, there may be a requirement for an investigation on other grounds (e.g. that death was unnatural, or indeed the person was in police custody). Furthermore, a person who dies while subject to restrictions amounting to “state detention” in a hospital or care home, but without there having been a deprivation of liberty authorised under the MCA 2005, will still have to be the subject of an investigation and inquest on “state detention” grounds.”