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RELATIVES of a member of the Windrush generation who died trying to prove he had a right to live in Britain walked out of his inquest yesterday after a coroner refused to involve the Home Office in the hearing.
Dexter Bristol, 58, collapsed and died outside his home in Camden, north London, on March 29 during a long battle to prove he was in the country legally despite having lived in Britain for nearly 50 years.
He had not visited a GP for more than a year before his death, believing he could not change surgeries unless he could prove his immigration status, a pre-inquest review hearing previously heard.
His relatives wanted the inquest to address the role the Home Office’s hostile environment might have played in Mr Bristol’s death, but coroner Dr William Dolman ruled that its policies were not relevant to how he died.
Mr Dolman accepted Mr Bristol was “under some sort of distress or pressure,” but said this was not solely as a result of his problems with the Home Office and ruled that Mr Bristol died from natural causes, an acute cardiac arrhythmia.
But his family had already left the court.
Outside St Pancras coroner’s court, his mother Sentina Bristol said: “We want justice, that’s what we’re fighting for — justice. That’s what I would like to see happen.”
Her solicitor Irene Nembhard told the Independent that the family would seek an urgent review of the decision because Mr Bristol’s relatives had “no confidence in the process fearlessly investigating the role of the Home Office policies.”
Yesterday’s hearing also saw heated exchanges between the family’s lawyer, Una Morris, and the coroner as Ms Morris tried to address the court on the potential affect of Home Office policies on Mr Bristol’s health.
She said an expert medical report made clear that the stress Mr Bristol was placed under contributed to his death, which was “a question for the Home Office, about whether the Home Office in its various guises may have caused or contributed to the death of Mr Bristol.”
But Mr Dolman accused her of “trying to tell me how to run my court” and repeatedly ordered her to sit down. He then apologised to Ms Morris and Mr Bristol’s family after he took a short break.
Ms Morris responded: “My concern isn’t for myself as much as the impact on the family, the family are deeply upset at the way you spoke to me.”
Barrister Leslie Thomas QC, a leading expert in inquests and claims against the police, commented: “It is deeply upsetting that in 2018 a family of colour has to face a hostile environment due to deeply racist Home Office policies, but then insult and injury are added to grief when they and their lawyers meet an equally hostile environment in court when searching for the truth.”
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