Inquest into restraint-related death of psychiatric patient

Tuesday 27 May 2008

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The inquest into the death of Kurt Howard opens on 27 May 2008 and is expected to last for three weeks. Kurt Howard died on 29 June 2002 aged 32 at Cefn Coed Hospital in Swansea while sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He died following a prolonged period of restraint in the prone position. Kurt's family has waited nearly six years for the inquest into his death.

Kurt Howard's family is represented by barristers Leslie Thomas and Kirsten Heaven of Garden Court Chambers, instructed by Joanne Kearsley of Farleys Solicitors.

The family hopes the inquest will examine:

  • why staff restrained Kurt for at least 55 minutes despite the widely known risk of death of such a prolonged period of restraint;
  • concerns regarding the number of times Kurt was restrained in the days and hours before his death;
  • whether the training of support workers and nursing staff involved in the restraint was adequate;
  • failure by nursing staff to report Kurt's death as being restraint-related.

Deborah Coles, Co-director of INQUEST, states:
"The scandal is that six years after Kurt's death there is still no mandatory training on the use of restraint in psychiatric hospitals as recommended by the Rocky Bennett Inquiry in 2003. Excessive levels of restraint continue to be used in psychiatric institutions behind closed doors. The government must enforce national guidelines and implement compulsory training on restraint before further vulnerable patients die."

Leslie Thomas - Profile

Inquests: Leslie is also a well-known expert in the field of inquest law and this is an area of law dear to his heart. He devotes a great deal of his time providing his professional services pro bono to bereaved families who require representation at inquests, particularly in relation to deaths in police or prison custody.

Leslie believes passionately that families should receive the best possible representation at what is a difficult time for them. With his extensive advocacy skills he endeavours to ensure that the family's voice is heard. He has a particular interest in "restraint" related deaths, police shootings, and has a close working knowledge of the expert and medical literature surrounding the debate concerning positional/postural asphyxia and CS spray and its interrelationship with deaths in custody. Read more

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