Coroner promises ‘full and fearless’ second inquest into death of Jodey Whiting
The final inquest into the death of Jodey Whiting, who died aged 42 following the termination of her Employment Support Allowance (ESA) by the DWP, is expected to take place in Spring 2024 following decisions made during today’s Pre-Inquest Review hearing (PIR).
Posted on 24 November 2023
The PIR was held at Teesside Magistrates’ Court Middlesbrough on 24 November 2023, and Senior Coroner Clare Bailey stated that the PIR is a ‘very important part of the investigation’ and expressed that her focus is to do what is right for Jodey, and to determine what steps need to be taken in order to have a ‘full and fearless’ inquest.
The PIR determined the boundaries of the investigation, the aim of which will be to find out what happened and to learn from it, and the procedures that should have been followed. The PIR decided the relevant material from the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) report that will be read out in the inquest, and that interested persons should submit their questions to Dr Turner, the expert who will provide a report and will receive Jodey’s GP records for review.
Jodey’s mother, Joy Dove, has fought a long legal battle since 2019 in order to bring a full investigation into her daughter’s death on 21 February 2017. The first inquest into Jodey’s death, held in May 2017, lasted only 37 minutes and Joy did not have any legal representation. Additionally, the coroner refused Joy’s request to consider the DWP’s potential role in Jodey’s decision to take her own life.
Jodey’s ESA was terminated after she did not attend a Work Capability Assessment two weeks before her death. An investigation was carried out in 2019 by ICE which found that the DWP’s decision was seriously flawed and violated its own safeguarding regulations.
Joy was granted permission for a second inquest in March 2023 when the Court of Appeal ruled that a further inquest was needed in the interests of justice, and accepted Joy’s argument that a full investigation was needed due to new evidence which had come to light since the first inquest.
The new evidence included the evidence from the ICE report, as well as an independent consultant psychiatrist who determined that there was likely to have been a causal link between the DWP ending Jodey’s ESA and her taking her own life.
Following today’s PIR, Joy Dove and her legal representative at law firm Leigh Day issued a statement.
Joy Dove said:
“Today’s Pre-Inquest Review is an important step in my legal journey and I am so relieved that after all this time we have the opportunity for a second inquest into the death of my beloved daughter Jodey, which I have been fighting so hard to get. My legal campaign has now been going on for four years and I could not have done this without the support of my family as well as my legal team, led by Merry Varney. I hope that the full inquest will help us finally get to the truth and will initiate vital change, as well as providing justice for Jodey.”
Leigh Day human rights partner Merry Varney said:
“It is a privilege to represent Joy and her long legal battle has not just been about getting justice for her daughter Jodey, but also has shone a light on DWP failings more generally and the impact these can have. The Pre-Inquest Review hearing today marks the first step in the second inquest into Jodey’s death, which the Court of Appeal ordered must take place earlier this year so that the question of whether the DWP’s failings in stopping Jodey’s Employment Support Allowance caused or contributed to Jodey’s death can be fully, fearlessly and publicly examined.”
Joy is represented by Merry Varney and Dan Webster at Leigh Day , and by Jesse Nicholls of Matrix Chambers.
Merry is a partner in the human rights department and head of the Leigh Day inquest group