Law firm Russell-Cooke has represented the family of Sarah Hammond in an inquest at Woking Coroners Court into her self-inflicted death.
Sarah Hammond was 19 years old with a history of anxiety, depression and self-harm. In the summer of 2020, she was detained under the Mental Health Act and brought to Farnham Road Hospital for a mental health assessment. The assessors found her to be fit for release despite her family’s insistence that she was going through a severe mental health crisis and their explanation that she would try to pull the wool over their eyes to try and convince them that she was fine.
Despite the family’s requests to pick Sarah up from the hospital themselves the hospital, which is run by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, they discharged her without informing them. Sarah was put in a taxi by herself. She got out of the taxi whilst it was stationary at traffic lights and shortly after died a self-inflicted death at Brookwood Rail Station. The family was not informed of her escape from the taxi until after her death.
The coroner found no fault in the assessment of Sarah's mental health or the decision of Farnham Road Hospital to discharge her. The coroner did, however, concede that "it would have been preferable" to offer to Sarah that her parents collect her to bring her home.
Russell-Cooke partner Janice Gardner, who represented the family, commented: “Our hearts are with the family of Sarah Hammond following the inquest into their daughter’s death. Over the two day inquest, Sarah’s mother Sally gave evidence that she told the Approved Mental Health Professional and staff at the hospital that Sarah would pull the wool over their eyes and hide her true mental state.
The family also made repeated requests to collect Sarah from hospital in the event that she was discharged, and it is incredibly unfortunate that these requests were ignored. Whilst we’re pleased to see that the Trust have amended their policy to put a greater emphasis on family members collecting people after they have been discharged, this change unfortunately came too late for Sarah.”
The family was also represented by Sophie Walker at 1 Pump Court and trainee Ellie Miles assisted throughout the inquest. They were also supported by caseworker Nancy Kelahar of INQUEST. Both Janice Gardner and Sophie Walker are members of INQUEST Lawyers Group.
Janice Gardner is a partner in the personal injury and clinical negligence team at Russell-Cooke. Members of the team regularly represent families of the deceased person at inquests, ensuring that their views are properly represented.