3. Coroner's inquests
Due to the development of the DOLS system, a person who died whilst under a DOLS was considered to have died while in state detention and so was subject to an automatic inquest. This was having a hugely detrimental impact on people with dementia and their families, causing emotional distress and lengthy delays, even where the person’s death was expected and due to natural causes. On 31st January 2017, the Policing and Crime Act became law. As of 3rd April (when this part of the Act comes into a force), a person who dies while under DOLS will no longer be considered to be in state detention and therefore subject to an automatic inquest by a coroner. Alzheimer’s Society worked with MPs and others on this law to ensure that an inquest would only be legally required when necessary.
The coroner will still have a duty to investigate any death where there is a suspicion that it might have resulted from violence or unnatural causes or where the cause of death is unknown, as well as deaths that occur in other types of state detention such as prisons or police cells. The law also does not prevent inquests being opened where a person does die under DOLS – coroners will still be able to investigate at their discretion. Families and care staff can also still raise the need for an investigation.