29 October 2019

The latest hearings in both the prosecution of the charity and manager who led the care home in which teenager Sophie Bennett died, and the criminal trial of an unaccredited ‘doctor’ who failed to give evidence to the inquest, are to take place this week. Sophie died on 4 May 2016. She was 19 years old and had been cared for at Lancaster Lodge, a specialist care home for people with mental ill health in Richmond, London.

At Wimbledon Magistrates Court on 30 October, the conclusion is expected at the trial of ‘Dr’ Duncan Lawrence. Lawrence was a ‘clinical lead’ and consultant at Lancaster Lodge. He proposed considerable changes that resulted in a new care regime at Lancaster Lodge, shortly before Sophie was found in a critical condition in the home. Despite receiving summons from the coroner to give evidence at the inquest into Sophie’s death, Lawrence failed to attend and disclose crucial evidence.

Lawrence is charged with ‘withholding evidence/documentation in relation to a coroner’s inquest’ (contrary to schedule 6 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009). The first hearing took place on 16 August 2019, at which Lawrence pleaded 100% guilty. Swift sentencing was expected, however at subsequent hearings Lawrence took legal advice and applications to adjourn were made.

INQUEST believes this is the first time a witness at an inquest has been criminally charged for a failure to participate in an inquest. The sentence is in addition to a fine of £650 imposed against Lawrence by the coroner on 1 May 2019.

At Ealing Magistrates court on 31 October, developments are expected at the latest hearing of the prosecution of the charity Richmond Psychosocial International Foundation (RPFI) and manager Peggy Jhugroo, who ran Lancaster Lodge. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) reached the decision to prosecute in May. This will be the second hearing of this case. RPFI and Peggy Jughroo’s lawyers are arguing that the charges are not valid, as it took the CQC too long to bring the charges. The CQC is contesting this and the hearing will determine whether or not the case can continue.

The CQC brought the prosecution against RPFI over an alleged failure to provide safe care and treatment, resulting in Sophie being exposed to the significant risk of avoidable harm, under the Health and Social Care Act 2008. By law, registered providers of health and social care services must take all reasonable steps and exercise due diligence to ensure patients receive safe care and treatment. Peggy Jhugroo, who was involved in Sophie’s care, will also be prosecuted under the Act.



For further information please contact INQUEST Communications Team on 020 7263 1111 or email Lucy McKay

The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Charlotte Haworth-Hird and Rachel Harger of Bindmans LLP and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Sam Jacobs of Doughty Street Chambers. Sophie is survived by her parents Ben and Nicki, and her siblings Natasha, Thomas and Jack.


‘Dr’ Duncan Lawrence: The inquest heard that, despite being employed as a clinical lead and understood by staff to be a medical doctor, Duncan Lawrence in fact has a doctorate in public management and administration from Knightsbridge university – an unaccredited institution in Denmark.

Lancaster House: Sophie told her family the new regime was like a ‘boot camp’. After protests from residents and staff, therapies were continued but the standard of care at the home fell to the extent that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) assessed the service as ‘inadequate’ in March 2016. However, the home remained open until after Sophie’s death.