Under section 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and the Chief Coroner’s Guidance no. 16, coroners are currently required to hold an inquest into any death where the deceased was subject to an authorisation under the deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS), on the basis that they are ‘in state detention’.
From 3 April 2017, with the Policing and Crime Act 2017, this is set to change. Any death on or after this date will only require an inquest if other criteria apply; for example if the death was unnatural or violent, or the cause of death is unknown. Deaths before this date will still require an inquest.
This amendment has been brought in to correct the anomaly in the previous rules which has meant an increase in the number of inquests being held without other good reason. Since DoLS came into force, of the 7000 deaths reported, 94% were found at inquest to be due to natural causes.
This is welcome news for families, coroners and the healthcare sector alike, avoiding additional distress for families, and allowing coroners and healthcare providers to focus resources on investigating deaths where lessons can be learnt.