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| 2 minutes read

Inquests and Registered Providers of Social Housing; what to do when your organisation is involved in an inquest?

An inquest into the death of an individual is held where the cause of death was due to unnatural circumstances. Sadly, these occur all too often and we have seen a significant increase in Registered Providers of Social Housing (RPs) being involved in inquests in recent years and with far more press scrutiny. 

Inquests are inquisitorial; they are a fact-finding mission. They are not adversarial, nor are they intended to place blame on a specific party. The findings in an inquest can, however, be used as evidence in subsequent civil or criminal proceedings. Civil and criminal claims give rise to obvious risks and are treated with the utmost seriousness, but far too often the risks associated with inquests are underestimated or unknown. Inquests must be taken seriously from the beginning not just because of the lessons to be learnt as a result, but due to the risk of subsequent litigation, regulatory engagement and adverse press coverage. 

So, what should be done when your organisation is notified of an inquest? In an ideal world, a process anticipating an inquest will be instigated from the moment an organisation becomes aware of the death of the service user. This will allow documents to be preserved, accounts to be taken from relevant staff members and necessary actions to take place. By taking early action this will avoid your organisation from being blindsided with requests from the Coroner when an inquest is opened but it should also ensure that the correct member of staff manages the case. 

RPs need to consider the Regulator of Social Housing (the Regulator) and their compliance with the Consumer Standards when dealing with any inquest. The Regulator has become far more interested in inquests in recent years and balancing the need for transparency and management of specific situations can be difficult. This is something we are advising our clients on more frequently.  

Due to the consequences that can lead from an inquest and their conclusions, obtaining legal advice at an early stage is very effective in limiting risk. When we have been instructed at an early stage, we have had great success in limiting our client’s involvement to written evidence and without having to be involved in the full inquest. This is not always possible and where it is necessary for the RP to be involved for the duration, we have been able to guide them through the issues so that no adverse finding is made in respect of their service when the inquest concludes. 

There is a lot more to say on risk management when dealing with inquests, particularly in the context of the Regulator so please join us on 11 June 2024 where we consider this in more detail. You can sign up for our webinar here.

The Inquest team at Devonshires provide expert advice on all aspects of inquests, through initial investigations following a death, to engaging with the Coronial process and finally, providing expert advice and risk management following a Prevention of Future Death Report. We also offer a bespoke Inquest Package to service all your inquests.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Inquest team, details of which can be found here.


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