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May 01, 2015


Barry Freed

Fantastic post. That last graph is killer.


God how utterly grim. Take care of yourselves.


What a terrible story. Condolences to the three of you, your stepson especially.


You should follow this up, Jamie, if you can bear it.
If this is in any way profitable on the police side of things then it's an outright scandal, the kind for which heads end up rolling. And even if no money is changing hands, it remains a terrible breach of public duty. The police handing over information they hold on private individuals, the basis of the transaction being the information's value as marketing leads ... it beggars belief, particularly given the sensitive and painful nature of the information involved.
Agree entirely with the sympathy expressed above - what a vile thing to have inflicted on you.
All the best.

Dan Hardie

That is a really awful story, for all the reasons you say. I'm very sorry for you and your partner and hope things are okay.

Also, one hesitates to say it in the circumstances, that's a superbly written account. I think you'd be doing a public service if you got a slightly longer version in one of the papers or in one of the political magazines. Certainly I've read very few things as well written, and nothing better, this year.


Thanks all. I wrote this to get it off my chest. I don't want to take it any further unless the family want to, which is a possibility. Right now, stepson and the deceased's brother are arranging the funeral and waiting for the coroner's office to release the body. After that's all over with, we'll see, I guess.

Larry T

A horrible story - but an insightful one too. Good wishes to you all.

chris williams

That's a crap place to be in Jamie. My sympathies. If you take it further, I suspect that the office of the Chief Coroner is the first place to go, rather than Staffs police, HMIC or IPCC: the coronial system is highly autonomous (as well as having massive regional variation) and uses (or not) its own officers rather than police for many investigative tasks. It's not accountable to the police, or indeed to anyone much, aside from the relatively new Chief Coroner and the common law.

Sometimes this state of affairs leads to good outcomes, such as Middleton (2004) which set up narrative verdicts for Article 2 inquests. Other times, as here, not so much.

Dan Hardie

Hmmm- I am not sure I understand Chris W's point. Surely there was a responsibility on the part of the cops who went to the scene of death, and their immediate superiors, to make sure that there was a search for the details of next of kin- either a physical search of the flat or a look through the relevant databases, or both. From what Jamie says, it seems almost certain that either kind of search would have yielded next of kin details.

Once the details had been found, the police would have a pretty clear responsibility to locate the next of kin (again, not hard in this case, since they hadn't moved from their addresses or become homeless) and then inform them, face-to-face. The coroner would need to be informed of all this, but surely it wouldn't be the responsibility of the coroner's office to make the first attempt to trace and inform relatives of the deceased.

NB that this is an attempt to understand something that I don't, at the moment, fully understand at all, not an attempt to pick a fight with anyone online. Chris is an academic studying criminal justice and it's quite likely that he's making an important point that I haven't understood.

Dan Hardie

Or- just trying to clarify things a little more- yes, it looks like it was the coroner's service that gave the job to the hearse-chasers. But before they did that, there must have been a decision, surely, at a high level of Staffordshire Police, that the police don't look for next-of-kin in cases of non-suspicious death. That is something that needs to be taken up with the police- and, since they are likely to be extremely uncooperative, with MPs and the Home Office. I wonder how many other parts of the country there are where this kind of thing is going on?

chris williams

Yes, what Dan said: Staffs police didn't do the next of kin job, which I think is a pretty definite sin of omission. The involvement of the hearse-chasers, the sin of commission seems like it's down to the coroners' service.

Point of info: I discovered late last year, owing to the sudden and untimely death of a friend's father, that Essex police do the proper job of quickly finding the next of kin of people who die suddenly but not suspiciously in their patch.

Dan Hardie

Cheers, Chris- that's useful to know about Essex. If Staffs police, or any other constabulary, start pleading that they're only doing this because of the effects of austerity, I'd be strongly inclined to say that they were talking rubbish. You've got an organisation whose members are trained to search houses and persons, and which is set up to trace people, and they are outsourcing those jobs...? I really understand Jamie not wanting to take this further right now, but I hope someone at some point puts these questions to Chief Constable (temporary) Jane Sawyers.

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