A PRE-INQUEST review (PIR) hearing into the death of Jodey Whiting will be held on Friday 24 November 2023 at Teesside Magistrates Court. The hearing marks a triumph for Whiting’s mother Joy Dove, who has fought for the past four years for a second inquest into her daughter’s death. Jodey Whiting died on 21 February 2017 when she was 42 years old.
The first inquest into her death was held in May 2017 and lasted just 37 minutes. Joy Dove had no legal representation and the coroner refused her request to consider the potential role of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in her daughter’s decision to take her own life.
Two weeks before Whiting died, her benefits had been terminated after she did not attend a Work Capability Assessment, leaving her with no income. Six weeks after her death, the DWP overturned the decision to terminate Whiting’s 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 her ESA application.
Since then, represented by Merry Varney and Dan Webster of Leigh Day and by Jesse Nicholls of Matrix Chambers, Dove has fought a legal campaign for there to be a second inquest and for the role of the DWP’s decisions in her daughter’s death to be fully investigated.
Dove’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 Whiting’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 Whiting’s benefits and her decision to take the act which led to her death.
In March 2023, the Court of Appeal unanimously accepted Dove’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.
- 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.”
* Source: Leigh Day