Jodey Whiting’s mother has ‘a shot at justice’ after ordered second inquest


The mother of a homebound disabled woman who killed herself after a benefit cut has hailed “the chance for justice” for her daughter after winning her legal battle over a new inquest into her death.

Jodey Whiting, 42, of Stockton-on-Tees, died in February 2017 about two weeks after her disability pension was suspended when she was not taking a work capacity assessment.

Her mother, Joy Dove, challenged a decision in June last year by two High Court judges who refused to order a new inquest to look into the Department for Works and Pensions’ (DWP) role in Ms Whiting’s death.

She took her fight to the Court of Appeal, where judges heard her case in January and ruled on Friday there should be a new inquest, to be heard by a different coroner.

In a statement following the verdict, Ms Dove said: “I am so pleased and grateful to the Court of Appeal and would like to thank the judges who reviewed Jodey’s case.

“We buried Jodey a little over six years ago and finally my family and I have a chance to get justice for Jodey.

“Jodey will never be forgotten and her death was not in vain, she helps others and her legacy will live on.”

Ms Dove added: “We have always believed that the DWP erroneously stopping Jodey’s performances caused her death and the High Court’s refusal caused such disappointment not only for me and my family but also for others who loved ones People have lost and continue to fight for accountability from the DWP after DWP failures.

“This is a victory not only for us, but for all of these families and others who are still at the end of the horrible treatment at the hands of the DWP.

“I hope the DWP learns from their tragic mistakes.”

Lady Justice Whipple, sitting with Lord Justice Lewis and Lord Justice William Davis, said in the judgment that a new inquiry was “desirable in the interests of justice”.

The judge said the public has a “legitimate interest” in knowing whether Ms Whiting’s death was related to the abrupt cessation of her services.

Lady Justice Whipple said in the decision: “I think it is in the interests of justice that Ms Dove and her family should have the opportunity to invite a coroner to a re-inquest to determine that the (DWP) actions related to Jodey’s herself deteriorating mental health and, if that determination is made, to request the coroner to include a reference to that determination in the conclusion as to how Jodey’s death came about.”

She added: “I come to this conclusion for the following reasons. First, the extent to which (DWP)’s actions have contributed to Jodey’s mental health is of real importance to Ms. Dove and her family. It is reasonable that they urge this matter to be investigated as part of the investigation into Jodey’s death.

“The coroner may or may not make the determinations that Jodey’s family seeks, but either way, that’s part of determining the ‘essential truth.’

“Second, there is a public interest in a coroner, given the broader issue of causality raised in this appeal.

“If Jodey’s death was related to the Department’s abrupt suspension of services, the public has a legitimate interest in knowing.

“Finally, the Department deals with a great many people who are vulnerable and dependent on welfare to survive, and the consequences of stopping welfare payments to such people should be publicly scrutinized, where they will be followed by others who may be affected and can be reported about interested in it.”

The judge said it was also in the public interest that the coroner be given the opportunity to consider whether a report about preventing future deaths was warranted and said the coroner might want to hear from the DWP at the second inquest which ones Remedial action already taken has been taken.

A government spokesman said: “Our sincere condolences go out to Ms Whiting’s family.

“DWP stands ready to assist the new coroner in his investigation. We cannot comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

The coroner at the original inquest, which lasted 37 minutes, recorded a suicidal verdict.

At the appeal hearing in January, Ms Dove’s lawyers said the initial inquiry failed to examine “whether acts or omissions by the DWP caused or contributed to Ms Whiting’s death”, arguing the High Court judges had reached the wrong conclusions came.

They argued that a further inquiry was needed to consider new evidence of “several significant failures” by the DWP when it terminated Ms Whiting’s Employment and Assistance Allowance (ESA), which the coroner did not have at the time of the initial inquiry.

Ms Whiting had received benefits for more than a decade for serious, long-term physical and mental health problems, including severe pain and a history of self-harm.

In late 2016, the DWP began reassessing Ms Whiting, who said she needed a home visit as she was housebound, very scared and unable to walk more than a few steps.

Ms Dove’s lawyers argued in the High Court in 2021 that a home visit had not been properly considered before the DWP ended her disability pension, resulting in Ms Whiting’s housing benefit and council tax benefit also being ended.

The decision to terminate Ms Whiting’s benefit was overturned on March 31, weeks after her death.

The independent case reviewer investigating complaints about the DWP later found multiple breaches of department policy, significant errors by staff, and multiple “missed opportunities” for the DWP to reconsider the claim. Jodey Whiting’s mother has ‘a shot at justice’ after ordered second inquest

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