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HJA writes to the Chief Coroner to create a separate category for PFD reports for domestic abuse-related deaths

Our Civil Liberties team, in conjunction with the Centre for Women’s Justice, have written to the Chief Coroner to consider creating a separate category for Prevention of Future Deaths (PFD) reports for domestic abuse-related deaths on the website of the Office of the Chief Coroner. At present there are categories for deaths in various circumstances, such as mental health related or police related deaths, but no separate category for deaths related to domestic abuse.

Alice Hardy, a partner in the Civil Liberties & Human Rights team, commented: “Having all of the PFD Reports for domestic abuse-related deaths in one place will make a significant difference to those seeking to identify and evaluate trends in such cases. This should also lead to better evaluation and implementation of the learning points identified in these reports, hopefully resulting in better protections for women at risk of domestic violence.”

See the full letter below.

Dear Chief Coroner

Coroners’ Prevention of Future Deaths reports in domestic abuse cases

We are writing on behalf of Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors, a law firm specialising in civil litigation, personal law matters and human rights work.

Our Civil Liberties team works primarily on actions against the police (‘AAPs’) and public authorities, inquests, inquiries, discrimination and privacy/data protection claims. All of these types of casework frequently involve representing survivors of domestic abuse, and in our inquest work we regularly represent the bereaved families of victims of domestic abuse and femicide. When representing such families we sometimes work alongside charities such as INQUEST and the Centre for Women’s Justice.

Although through our inquest work areas of improvement to policy, guidance, training and practice within state bodies are regularly identified and Prevention of Future Deaths (PFD) reports produced, one of our key concerns is the lack of follow-up for the recommendations made in these reports. Whilst state bodies provide written responses within 56 days, there is no further monitoring of the implementation of recommendations or their impact. Far more can be done to ensure that lessons identified are acted upon by state bodies.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner is in a unique position to adopt an overview of domestic abuse-related deaths, both domestic homicides and suicides in the context of domestic abuse. As you will be aware, she is developing an oversight mechanism in her office to ensure the lessons are learned from domestic abuse-related deaths including homicides and suicides, and Coroners’ PFD reports play a vital part in this.

We are concerned that at present it is very difficult to gather PFD reports in domestic abuse-related cases as they are not separately categorised within the PFD collection on the Office of Chief Coroner website. They appear in a variety of categories including police related deaths, “other related deaths” and potentially in the suicide, mental health related deaths or other categories. Within each of these categories on the website there is no summary for each case so the only way to identify them is to read each of the PFD reports.

It would be enormously helpful for the oversight of domestic abuse-related deaths for these to be gathered within a separate category on the website. This is the only route by which PFD reports can be accessed at a national level. We respectfully ask that the Chief Coroner’s Office engage with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s office in relation to this. Such categorisation would also be of real value to practitioners such as lawyers involved in inquests, Coroners, public bodies and others seeking to improve protections for victims of domestic abuse and to bring down the rates of domestic homicides and suicides.

We would be grateful to hear from you about your plans regarding domestic abuse-related deaths, and if we can assist in any way please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours faithfully

Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors