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Secretary of State allowed limited role in application for second inquest into death of Jodey Whiting

Judge partially approves late request by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for her lawyers to make submissions to the High Court at an application for a second inquest into the death of Jodey Whiting.

Posted on 11 June 2021

A judge has partially approved a very late request by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey for her lawyers to make submissions to the High Court at an application for a second inquest into the death of Jodey Whiting due to be heard on 22 June 2021.

The ruling denies the Department of Work and Pensions lawyers the opportunity to address the court in person but it is still a blow for Jodey’s mother Joy Dove, who has been fighting for a second inquest into her daughter’s death for the past four years after the first inquest at which she had no legal representation was concluded after just 37 minutes.

Jodey, from Stockton-on-Tees, died aged 42 on 21 February, 2017. She suffered severe mental health problems and took her own life after she was left with no income when her benefits were terminated because she did not attend a Work Capability Assessment.

The Secretary of State made the application to be a party in the case for a second inquest three weeks before the application is due to be heard at the High Court on 22 June, 2021 despite having been on notice since December 2020.

Represented by Leigh Day law firm, Joy opposed the application by the Secretary of State, believing that an intervention by her will prejudice her application for a fresh inquest into her daughter’s death.

The judge was very critical of the tardy approach by Ms Coffey’s department and the approval of written submissions on one point falls significantly short of the request to address the court orally on three matters as an interested party that had been requested.

However, the June 22 hearing will now be held over one and a half days.

Joy Dove said:

“I am appalled by the behaviour of the DWP. I believe they caused my daughter’s death by their callous disregard for the anguish they caused her and now, with the same abominable attitude towards ordinary people, they are causing me more distress. They have known about my application for a second inquest since December and only now, just 10 days before the hearing is due to take place, have they got around to addressing Jodey’s case.”

Leigh Day partner Merry Varney said:

“We are pleased that the judge recognised that the Secretary of State’s behaviour towards Joy Dove has been woeful and that at this stage he has only allowed her lawyers a limited narrow role in the hearing in her application for a second inquest into the death of her daughter.

“The conduct of the Secretary of State has caused significant additional and wholly avoidable, distress for our client. No adequate reason has ever been provided for the delay and now, at this very late stage, because the hearing will now take longer, she has put our client to extra expense and inconvenience, as well as worry and distress. We welcome the Court’s recognition of the lack of apology or regard for our client by the Secretary of State and our client and her family hope the High Court will recognise the ongoing need for justice for Jodey and to allow her daughter the inquest that her case clearly merits.”

Jesse Nicholls of Doughty Street is instructed.

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Merry Varney
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Merry Varney

Merry is a partner in the human rights department and head of the Leigh Day inquest group

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