From Monday 3rd April 2017, the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 will be amended so that people subject to authorisations under DoLS will no longer be considered to be ‘otherwise in state detention’ for the purposes of Section 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
This means that coroners will no longer be under a duty to investigate a death solely because a DoLS authorisation was in place.
Such deaths will only be reported to the coroner if the cause of death is unknown, or where there are concerns that the death was violent or unnatural. This effectively brings the position in line with deaths which do not involve DoLS, and the circumstances where a jury will now be required will be rare. The practical effect of this change will be to reduce the number of referrals to the coroner, and the number of associated witness statements and inquests.
Coroner will expect the referrals from 3rd April to comply with the new law, and families will want accurate information as to whether the death can be registered.
- All ‘DoLS’ deaths which occur prior to 3rd April 2017 must still be reported to the coroner, and an automatic inquest will be held (even where the death is natural). These deaths must be dealt with under the ‘old’ law.
- DoLS deaths which occur from 3rd April 2017 onwards, do not need to be automatically reported to the coroner; the usual considerations as to the circumstances of the death apply.
- It is the date of death, not the date of reporting to the coroner or the date of the inquest, which is relevant.