Inquest into death of Windrush citizen Dexter Bristol concluded after family walk out of hearing

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Una Morris represented the family, instructed by Irène Nembhard of Birnberg Peirce.

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The inquest into the death of Dexter Bristol concluded today after his family walked out of the hearing in response to the coroner refusing to make the Home Office an interested person and refusing to explore the impact of the government’s hostile environment policies on the stress experienced by Mr Bristol. The family had obtained expert evidence which said that the stress surrounding Mr Bristol’s immigration status likely contributed to his demise.

Mr Bristol, who died in March 2018 aged only 58, had in the period leading up to his death experienced the impact of the government’s hostile environment policies and had to go to considerable lengths to try to prove how long he had been in the UK and his right to be here, whilst experiencing difficulties in being able to work without proof of his right to do so and was worried about the loss of his benefits. He was eight when he moved from Grenada to the UK in 1968 to join his mother, who was working as an NHS nurse and spent the rest of his life in the UK.

Una Morris, representing his family, told the hearing at St Pancras coroner's court that an expert medical report clearly stated that the stress Bristol was under as a result of his need to prove his right of abode in the UK contributed to his death. She said:

"This is a question for the Home Office, about whether the Home Office in its various guises may have caused or contributed to the death of Mr Bristol."

Following the family and their lawyers leaving the hearing, the coroner proceeded with the inquest, reaching a conclusion of natural causes that made no mention of the impact of the hostile environment policies on Mr Bristol.

A statement on behalf of the family of Mr Bristol says:

"The family are very hurt and disappointed in the manner in which the Assistant Coroner spoke to their barrister this morning when she sought to make submissions on their behalf. The submissions she was trying to make were that the Home Office should be represented at the inquest into Dexter’s death as the family were making serious criticisms of the effect on Dexter, a Windrush migrant, of the Home Office’s policies towards Windrush migrants.

"The unwillingness of the Coroner to listen to the family’s submissions surprised and confused them, particularly as the Coroner had informed them at the pre-inquest review that he would conduct a fearless investigation into Dexter’s death. The family believe that a fearless investigation must involve an investigation into the effect on Dexter of the Home Office policies that wrongly required him as a Windrush migrant to prove his right of abode in the UK. These hostile policies caused Dexter extreme stress in the last 18 months of his life.

"The family obtained, and served on the Coroner last week, a medical report from an independent cardiologist who expressed the opinion that on a balance of probabilities, the stress that Dexter experienced as a consequence of the need to prove his right of abode in the UK contributed towards his death. This opinion made a causative link between the Home Office hostile policies and Dexter’s cause of death.

"The family felt that they had no option but to walk out of the inquest this morning after the Coroner ruled that he would not invite the Home Office to be an Interested Person in the proceedings. They are shocked to hear that the Coroner continued the hearing and concluded the inquest in less than two hours and did not consider it necessary to call and hear the opinion of the cardiologist on the likely cause of Dexter’s death."

"The family will now take some time to consider what happened this morning and to decide what steps to take next to seek justice for Dexter."

The case has been reported widely including by Guardian, Huffington Post, Channel 4 News and ITV.

Una Morris is a member of the Garden Court Chambers Inquests and Inquiries team.

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