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Inquest Concludes Into Death of Man with History of Social and Mental Health Issues

Our expert team of Public Law solicitors represented the family of a vulnerable man who died in a fire at his seventh floor council flat in Bristol, at an inquest into his death.

Robert “Bob” Crane had a history of mental health and social issues, including hoarding flammable items and lighting fires in his flat.

After Bob’s death, his son Alex instructed our team of expert Public Law solicitors to investigate the care he received from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust (AWP) and Bristol Social Services.

The week-long inquest found that there was a lack of consistent multi-agency working between AWP and Bristol Social Services. Bristol authorities missed several opportunities to help him before his tragic death.

In a report to the coroner, the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board (BSAB) stated that Mr Crane’s death was caused by his mental health issues being overlooked, and that his risky anti-social behaviour was seen as separate to his psychiatric condition.

Bob was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1985, and had been on a regular prescription until 2012, when he stopped collecting his medication.

Alex described his father as having a “serious, untreated mental illness” which put him and those around him in danger. By the time of his death, he had been without electricity for 68 weeks.

A report found that the AWP failed to recognise that Bob’s risky and chaotic lifestyle was a symptom of his underlying mental disorder, instead recording that his behaviour was a matter of choice.

Furthermore, a consultant psychiatrist described Mr Crane’s decision to live in an unsafe environment as being based on a misunderstanding of the risks involved, and that it could not simply be called an unwise decision.

Alex Crane said that social services and the mental health trust ignored and downplayed his father’s medical history, and failed to take responsibility for his care.

He said: “It has been very difficult for me to sit in court while witnesses from Bristol City Council and the Avon and Wiltshire Partnership defended the lack of care my dad received and painted a picture of him which was at odds with the loving but troubled person I knew. Ultimately, my dad’s case illustrates the dangers of expecting underfunded, undertrained and understaffed public services to care for mentally ill people in the community”.

Gus Silverman, the solicitor who presented Bob’s case said: “It is now for Bristol City Council and the Avon Wiltshire Partnership to learn the lessons arising from this inquest so that vulnerable people living in the community receive a suitable and safe level of care”.

Our Public Law solicitors can provide help and support if you are attending an inquest into the death of a loved one. Please see our Inquests page for more information.

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