5 February 2004

INQUEST welcomes the decision to publish, on February 12th, the report of the Inquiry into the death of David ‘Rocky’ Bennett who died nearly 5½ years ago in the Norvic Clinic, Norwich. Rocky was a 38-year old Black man who had been a detained patient in the Clinic for three years. His death followed an incident involving the use of restraint. The jury at the inquest returned a verdict of accidental death aggravated by Neglect on 17 May 2001 and said that the cause of death was due to prolonged restraint and long-term antipsychotic drug therapy.

Following the inquest, the family of Mr. Bennett, their lawyers and INQUEST called on the Government to consider holding a public inquiry into Mr. Bennett’s death. Instead the Minister agreed to an extended form of the usual inquiry that follows a death in psychiatric detention with a public element looking at the national lessons to be learnt.

Dr Joanna Bennett said: "Like many Black men, my brother feared that he would die in mental health services. Tragically those fears became a reality for my family, in 1998. I am saddened that other patients have died in similar circumstances since his death. My hope is that the outcome of this inquiry will go some way to preventing similar deaths occurring in the future and will prove to be a watershed in the treatment and care of Black people using mental health services in the UK"

Helen Shaw, co-director INQUEST said: “Rocky died in appalling circumstances that revealed serious concerns about the treatment of black people in psychiatric custody and the dangers of restraint. His family has been let down by a system that has not held those responsible to account. We hope that this report will result in significant and lasting change both in the treatment of detained patients and their families.

Sadiq Khan said: “We are fed up with crocodile tears. Unless the Inquiry report is unequivocal in its conclusions and clear about its recommendations than we fear that all this work has been in vain. Black people have had a raw deal from a profession that is supposed to be caring for too long. There needs to be an acceptance that there is institutional racism in the NHS and that this will no longer be accepted. It is crucial that any recommendations are implemented as a matter of urgency”