Fury over ten minute inquest into death of ‘real life Daniel Blake’
St Pancras Coroner's Court does not hear evidence about Lawrence Bond's work capability assessments
23 June, 2017 — By Tom Foot
THE sister of a man whose death triggered protests over the government’s “fitness for work” reforms believes a coroner’s inquest has failed to answer key questions.
Lawrence Bond had seen his benefits stopped under controversial work capability assessments, which critics say are forcing people to take on jobs while they are still unwell. The 56-year-old collapsed and died in Kentish Town in January, shortly after a visit to the Jobcentre, but this back story was not considered by coroner Dr Richard Brittain.
Instead an inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Friday was completed in little more than 10 minutes with “paper-only” evidence and nobody on the witness stand. The case had led comparisons with Ken Loach’s award-winning film I, Daniel Blake, and the movie director was among protesters who joined a vigil outside the Jobcentre in Kentish Town in the days following Mr Bond’s death. Frances Coombes, Mr Bond’s sister, who did not attend the hearing, said yesterday (Wednesday): “What we would still like to know is, how can someone who had so many different things wrong with them, be classed as fit for work? What does that say about the system? Is it fit for purpose?”
Protests outside the Kentish Town Jobcentre in January
She added: “I and my sister started to get seriously worried last year that Lawrence did not seem to be getting any help or understanding from the professionals he came in contact with.” Campaigners at the inquest said representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions and Maximus – the company that assessed Mr Bond – should have been called to give evidence.
Dr Brittain – who described Mr Bond as a “retired electrical engineer” – told the court that his long-standing heart and lung conditions were to blame, adding: “He collapsed at a bus stop and went into cardiac arrest. The London Ambulance Service attended but, despite attempts to resuscitate, Mr Bond died at the scene.” The hearing was told how Mr Bond had diabetes, high blood pressure and mental health problems, including some agoraphobia and anxiety. Medical evidence focused on “granulomatosis” of Mr Bond’s lungs – a rare disease that causes blood vessels to become swollen.
Ken Loach at a protest in the wake of Lawrence Bond’s death
Mike Tait, a solicitor who attended the inquest, said: “Once a coroner decided his death required an inquest was necessary, it follows there is reason to believe that there was something out of the ordinary to investigate. A coroner’s role includes using information discovered during the investigation to assist in the prevention of other deaths where possible.”
He added: “I was astonished there was no statement from the staff member at the Jobcentre who had seen him before he died. He or she would have been the last person known to have spoken to him, and so surely would have important evidence to give as to what had happened at the appointment and Mr Bond’s response, which may have precipitated his heart attack. “It seems to me that the inquest process failed a really important task.”
Disability rights campaigner Claire Glasman said: “Lawrence Bond’s death was absolutely tragic and we were shocked that the inquest was done in this way. We wanted an investigation and justice for Lawrence.”