The Inquest into the death of Bogdan Wilk was one of the first Inquest cases I had a chance to experience during my time at Farleys. I recall the issues of the Inquest clearly and of course, the result. I co-wrote an article which featured in the Inquest Law magazine in December 2012 focussing on the issues surrounding the death of Mr Wilk, the failings of the staff members and other services, and of course summarising the verdict.
The inquest exposed numerous failings by the police, healthcare staff and interpretation service in respect of the diagnosis of Mr Wilk’s condition, administration of his medication, and communication between the staff themselves and also between the staff and Mr Wilk.
The Police failed to inform the following shift of the importance of obtaining the labelled prescription medication in a timely manner and thus this was not done in an adequate amount of time or in accordance with protocol. During the Inquest evidence was heard that confirmed that the information regarding the medication should have been sought as soon as was possible. Mr Wilk should also not have been subject to the ‘six hour sober rule’, which is meant only for withdrawing recreational drug users.
The initial assessment conducted by the police nurse, was poorly completed. Although it is perhaps understandable that an asthmatic inhaler could be confused with a GTN spray when considering the language barrier and subsequent use of hand gestures to articulate the motion. However, the nurse did accept that her record of ‘usually fit and well’ was inaccurate.
The doctor provided by the Police, failed to correctly diagnose the severity of the of Mr Wilk’s condition. The doctor also did not identify the importance of some of Mr W’s medication identified by expert evidence as likely to be more than a minimal/trivial contribution to the death if it was not taken.
Problems arose from the involvement of translation service as only one side of the transcript is available; it is not clear what the interpreter has relayed back to the police. Evidence was heard from the interpreter who stated that she would have interpreted anything said to her. However the reactions of the police are not what would be an expected reaction to some of the remarks by Mr Wilk. It is unclear whether, she was not heard, did not interpret some things or the police ignored her.
Expert evidence identified that immediate treatment with blood thinning agents, monitoring with an ECG would, on the worst assumptions have given Mr Wilk a 93% chance of survival. It was also identified that in excess of 90% of heart attacks would be associated with the classic symptoms of chest pain, radiating to the arm or neck but associated symptoms of sweating and clamminess were much less likely.
The Coroner delivered a narrative verdict along with questions for the jury. The cause of Mr Wilk’s death was 1a coronary atheroma. The Jury stated that they believed it was more probable than not that the joint failings of the police, healthcare staff, and translation procedures were significant contributory factors to Mr Wilk’s death.
The Jury confirmed that the police had failed to perform an adequate handover and then subsequently failed to retrieve and record further medication within a timely manner and in accordance with protocol. They also considered the shortfalls of the healthcare staff, starting with a poor assessment followed by a failure to correctly identify the detainee’s medical requirements. The jury make particular reference to the doctor, who had a prescribed, labelled GTN spray for Mr Wilk in his possession but failed to administer this.
Finally, the Jury touch upon the problems arising from the language barrier. In particular, the seemingly unanswered comments that Mr Wilk made to his interpreter whilst he was being charged. Due to the ‘one-sided’ phone call transcript, the Jury state that they were prevented from making further judgements.
After a considerable time away from the Actions Against Detaining Authorities department, I was asked to assist with a Joint Settlement Meeting in relation to the civil claim on behalf of the family members that had come out of the Inquest into Mr Wilk’s death.
The civil claim had many difficulties; firstly that distinguishing the liability between the police and the interpretation service was difficult due to the one sided transcript available. We also had to consider the overlap into commercial law as we considered the contractual obligations between the parties. The claimants also faced difficulties in terms of the relationships between them and Mr W. For example, whilst Mr W had treated the daughters of his partner as his own, they were in fact not his biological children. Mr W’s partner had also recently begun new relationship, begun living with him and had a child. There were concerns that this may have a bearing on the level of compensation that she would receive in light of Mr W’s death.
On the day of the Joint Settlement Meetings, many careful negotiations were made before an offer was accepted to award the family of Mr W with £90,000. This was a great result for the family.
Here at Farleys, our specialist inquest solicitors will do everything in our power to assist you at this extremely difficult time and to ensure the inquest delivers the answers you require, which may go some way to assisting you in dealing with your grief.To arrange a free initial consultation call Farleys on 0845 050 1958 or submit and enquiry online.