Sister of ex-soldier who died following benefit sanction vows to fight decision not to hold inquest


CrowdJustice webpage created to raise money for High Court legal battle


The family of an ex-soldier who died in 2013 after being left ‘destitute’ following benefit sanctions imposed by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have vowed to challenge the decision of the Coroner not to hold an inquest into his death.


David Clapson, a Type 1 diabetic, died in 2013, aged 59. His sister, Gill Thompson, claims that following the sanction by the DWP he was left without money for his electricity meter, unable to chill his insulin in the height of Summer, and unable to buy sufficient food, and that these factors all contributed to his death from fatal diabetic ketoacidosis. An autopsy found he had no food in his stomach when he died. 


The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, on 2 November 2016 raised the death of Mr Clapson in Prime Minister’s Questions.  Whilst addressing the issue of benefits sanctions to the Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, Mr Corbyn said:


“But I will tell the Prime Minister what is monstrously unfair: ex-servicemen like David Clapson dying without food in his home due to the Government’s sanctions regime. It is time that we ended this institutionalised barbarity against often very vulnerable people.”


Last month the Hertfordshire Coroner received legal submissions prepared by Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Jesse Nicholls, Doughty Street, and Merry Varney, Partner, Leigh Day.  The submissions argued that a fresh investigation should be opened into Mr Clapson’s death on the basis that he died an unnatural death due to the imposition and effects of the benefit sanction imposed on him shortly before, and in force, at the time of his death.  They explained that the benefit sanction arguably played a contributing or causative factor in the death of Mr Clapson and that therefore an Inquest must be held.


However, in a letter received on 4 November 2016 the Senior Coroner for Hertfordshire, Geoffrey Sullivan, refused the request, stating that he does not propose a fresh investigation into the death of Mr Clapson, and that he does not accept there is “either a direct or contributory causal link between the imposition of the benefit sanction and Mr Clapson’s death.”  He added that, in his view, “there is no evidence as to whether the benefit sanction was imposed properly or not.”


Ms Thompson’s lawyers are now considering a judicial review of the Coroner’s decision not to hold an inquest.  Ms Thompson has now set up a page on the CrowdJustice webpage, the UK’s crowd funding platform for legal costs, to help raise the money needed to take the legal action to the High Court to seek an inquest into her brother’s death (including payment of court fees, expert costs and legal fees at a reduced rate).  More information about the background to this case is available in Leigh Day’s press release, which is available here.

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