On the 7th April 2014 the Coroner at the Inquest into the death of 67 year old Sidney Waller returned a narrative verdict. Mr Waller died on 28th July 2008 after receiving multiple stab wounds whilst working as a semi-retired joiner at a block of flats in Manchester. He was attacked by a resident, Mr Paul Cusack, who was described by the Coroner’s expert witness, as a loner with a history of paranoid schizophrenia and a number of untreatable personality disorders. He was drinking heavily and using heroin and crack cocaine.
Following periods of hospitalisation, Mr Cusack was discharged in April 2008 into the care of an Assertive Outreach Team, managed jointly by the Health Advisory Research Project (HARP) now Manchester MIND, and the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care NHS Trust.
The expert psychiatrist called to give evidence at the Inquest described Mr Cusack as a man in crisis. The expert psychiatrist gave evidence that there were systemic failures and that Mr Cusack was an increasing risk to himself but more importantly an increasing risk to others.
On 22nd July 2008, 6 days prior to Mr Waller’s death, Mr Cusack had been seen by an experienced social worker and a support worker. He had presented to them a knife which he told them he had obtained for his own protection.
The expert psychiatrist gave evidence that on the balance of probabilities if professionals had acted upon the events of the 22nd July 2008 and an intervention had taken place, the outcome would have been different. The Coroner concluded that the lack of any such action was a serious failing which significantly contributed to the death of Mr Waller.
When the inquest was first opened, the family did not believe they would be would meet the criteria for exceptional case funding, which would potentially place them at a great disadvantage as the other Interested Parties were legally represented by Counsel. There was a large volume of complex documentation and a number of investigation reports commissioned and the Coroner ruled early on in the proceedings that this case would be treated as an Article 2 inquest.
With the help of Farleys and a letter in support of their application from the HM Coroner for Manchester, the family managed to successfully secure funding and the financial eligibility criteria was waived. This ensured that they were placed on an equal footing throughout the inquest and had the benefit of Counsel to skilfully question witnesses.
This is a very tragic case and one that has taken many years for the family to gain acknowledgment that there were a number of systemic failings in the care of Paul Cusack ultimately leading to the death of Mr Waller. It is hoped that following the review of procedures and changes implemented by the Healthcare Trust nothing like this will happen again in the future.
If you or your family are faced with the unfortunate and difficult task of trying to represent yourselves in the inquest into the death of a loved one and feel you would benefit from legal assistance, please contact us – we offer a free initial consultation and represent families across the country. We are experienced in applying for exceptional funding and are able to provide legal representation at inquest for a fixed fee.