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High Court

Pre-inquest review into the death of Jodey Whiting, aged 42

A pre-inquest review hearing into the death of Jodey Whiting will be held on Friday 24 November 2023 at 11am at Teesside Magistrates Court in Middlesbrough.

Posted on 29 September 2023

The hearing marks a triumph for Jodey’s mother, Joy Dove who has fought for the past four years for a second inquest to be held into Jodey’s death. Jodey died on 21 February 2017 when she was 42 years old.

Image of Jodey Whiting

The first inquest into Jodey’s death was held in May 2017 and lasted just 37 minutes. Joy had no legal representation and the coroner refused her request to consider the potential role of the DWP in Jodey’s decision to take her own life. Two weeks before Jodey died, her benefits had been terminated after she didn’t attend a Work Capability Assessment, leaving her with no income. Six weeks after Jodey’s death, the DWP overturned the decision to terminate her Employment Support Allowance (ESA). In 2019, an investigation by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded that there were numerous serious failings in the DWP’s handling of Jodey’s ESA application.

Since then, represented by Merry Varney and Dan Webster of Leigh Day and by Jesse Nicholls of Matrix Chambers, Joy has fought a legal campaign for there to be a second inquest and for the role of the DWP’s decisions in Jodey’s death to be fully investigated.

Joy’s application for a second inquest argued that a second inquest was required based on new evidence which had come to light since the first inquest. This included the findings of the ICE report that the DWP’s decision to terminate Jodey’s ESA was seriously flawed and breached the DWP’s own safeguarding policies. It also included evidence from an independent consultant psychiatrist, who concluded that there was likely to have been a causal link between the termination of Jodey’s benefits and her decision to take the act which led to her death.

In March 2023, the Court of Appeal unanimously accepted Joy’s application, overturning a previous judgment of the High Court, and ruled that it was necessary and desirable in the interests of justice for a fresh inquest to be held.

At the pre-inquest review hearing the following matters are likely to be discussed:

  • Evidence to be gathered for the inquest including from the DWP
  • The need for further expert evidence
  • Witnesses; and
  • The listing of the final inquest

Joy Dove said:

“This has been a long, emotional and determined campaign that I couldn’t have done without the support of my family and Merry Varney. I am looking forward to the pre-inquest review as the start of the fresh inquest that we have fought for, long and hard. Hopefully we will get the answers to the questions that we have been asking for many years.”

Leigh Day partner Merry Varney said:

“It has been such a long journey to help Joy reach this point and finally she has the opportunity to ensure her much loved daughter’s death is fully and fearlessly investigated, including public scrutiny of the impact of flawed DWP decisions on Jodey, who was, due to disabilities, entirely reliant on welfare benefits for income.

"As the Court of Appeal made clear in Joy’s case, the public have a “legitimate interest” in knowing whether the DWP’s withdrawal of Jodey’s benefits caused or contributed to her death and this PIR hearing is the first step towards an inquest examining that issue. It is a privilege to continue to represent Joy, who has fought for this not just for her daughter but also for other families and individuals severely impacted by DWP failings."

Legal case timeline:

January 2020: Joy applies to Attorney General to ask for permission to apply to the High Court for a fresh inquest into Jodey’s death to examine the role played by the DWP

November 2020: Joy is granted permission to apply to High Court for second inquest

June 2021: Sec of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, wins permission to make submissions to the High Court over Joy’s application

September 2021: High Court refuses Joy’s application for second inquest

October 2021: High Court refuses Joy permission to appeal

November 2021: Joy makes second application for permission to appeal High Court refusal of application for second inquest

October 2022: Court of Appeal grants Joy permission to appeal High Court’s decision not to grant a second inquest into her death

January 2023: Joy has two-day hearing at Court of Appeal to challenge High Court refusal of second inquest

March 2023: Joy is granted permission for second inquest into Jodey’s death

Profile
Merry Varney
Court of Protection Human rights Inquests Judicial review

Merry Varney

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

Profile
Dan Webster (1)
Court of Protection Discrimination Human rights Inquests Judicial review Public law

Dan Webster

Dan is an associate solicitor in the human rights department

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Jodey Whiting
Jodey Whiting Human rights Court of Appeal Joy Inquests

Court of Appeal grants second inquest into death of Jodey Whiting

The Court of Appeal has ruled today that a second inquest should be held into the death of Jodey Whiting.