Clinician sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for failing to give evidence at an inquest

Duncan Lawrence, the clinical lead and consultant at Lancaster Lodge, a specialist care home for people with mental health problems, has been convicted and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for failing to provide evidence at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court. Lawrence’s conviction relates to his failure to attend an inquest and provide evidence into the death of 18-year-old Sophie Bennett.

Sophie Bennett was admitted to Lancaster Lodge in Richmond in April 2015 for treatment of complex mental health needs, but Sophie was later found to have hanged herself at the facility in 2016. An inquest was required to examine the details around her death.

Duncan Lawrence was prosecuted for failing to give evidence at that inquest – to find out more, you can read our earlier blog post here.

Points to take away

While prosecutions of this type are likely to be incredibly rare, this case serves as a warning to all inquest witnesses.

NHS staff may feel that providing evidence to coroners as part of the inquest process can be an all too laborious and unwelcome process, but it is one that cannot be ignored and must be approached with care. While giving evidence in court can be a daunting prospect, failing to properly respond to the coroner’s request for information and summons to court is never a wise alternative.

We have a dedicated inquest team available to assist and advise on all aspects of inquest preparation and attendance at court. Please get in touch to see how we can help.

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