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Arnold & Porter London Team Represents Richford Family Pro Bono in Death Inquest

January 28, 2020

Update: On October 14, 2020, the Law Society Excellence Awards "Highly Commended" Arnold & Porter's work on the Richford family matter in their "Excellence in Pro Bono" category, which "showcases examples of innovation and best practice in providing pro bono legal work." Judges felt that the matter exemplified how "members across the profession are willing to donate their time to help those who cannot afford legal advice or representation."

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An Arnold & Porter London team represented the Richford family in the inquest into the death of their seven-day-old son, Harry, at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, England.

The family always believed that Harry's death was a result of serious failings in both the obstetrics and neonatology care they received, and sought answers from the East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust for over two years. However, they were repeatedly told there were no errors and no need for an inquest to be conducted.

On January 24, 2020, after a three-week inquest in which evidence was heard from 34 witnesses including doctors, nurses, midwives and senior management at the Trust, the Coroner found that Harry's death was wholly avoidable and caused by a number of serious and preventable failures, which amounted to neglect. The long list of failures noted by the Coroner, and recommendations on how to prevent such deaths happening in the future, finally provide some answers for the family.

This is one of the first cases against an NHS Trust in which Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights has been recognized as being engaged, due to the systematic and structural failings at the Trust. The Trust was aware of the risks in both the obstetrics and neonatology services two years before Harry's birth, but had not put in place any training or procedures to avoid those risks arising. It is rare for a Coroner to find that a death in an NHS context amounts to neglect as this is a high evidential burden.

The director of the Trust has apologized for failings in Harry's care and accepted the Coroner's conclusion and findings.

The Arnold & Porter team included partner Jackie Mulryne and associates Giles Harvey, Louise Strom, and Daisy Bray.