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Care home manager to be sentenced for failure to disclose evidence at inquest

A former manager at a care home where a young woman died is due to be sentenced later this month for failing to attend and disclose evidence to an inquest.

The charity Inquest said it believed this was the first such case of its kind.

It said Duncan Lawrence had been the clinical lead and consultant at Lancaster Lodge, a specialist care home for people with mental health problems in Richmond-Upon-Thames.

He made changes that resulted in a new care regime shortly before Sophie Bennett, 19, was found in a critical condition in the home and later died.

Inquest, which is working with Ms Bennett’s family, said that despite receiving a summons from the coroner, Mr Lawrence failed to attend and disclose crucial evidence at the inquest into her death.

On 1 May HM assistant coroner John Taylor fined Mr Lawrence £600 and referred his absence to the police and Crown Prosecution Service, who then charged him with withholding evidence/documentation in relation to a coroner’s inquest, contrary to schedule 6 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

He attended a court hearing on 16 August and is due to be sentenced on 27 August, the BBC has reported.

The inquest jury in February 2019 found that neglect contributed to Ms Bennett’s self-inflicted death, which occurred in 2016, after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) assessed the home as ‘inadequate’

Inquest director Deborah Coles said: “Inquests play a vital role in scrutinising the circumstances of preventable deaths like Sophie’s. A full and fair hearing enables the coroner to do their job. As such it is essential that those involved in providing care attend and give the necessary evidence.

“We welcome the coroner’s robust response to the failure of Duncan Lawrence to turn up and speak for his actions. This subsequent prosecution is an unprecedented step which we hope will lead to accountability in this case, as well as sending a wider message about the importance of exercising candour and openness following a death.”

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