Lawyers acting on behalf of the sister of a diabetic ex-soldier who died after his benefits were cut by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are calling for an inquest into his “unnatural death”.
Mr Clapson was aged just 59 when he died, soon after the DWP sanctioned his £71.70 a week Job Seekers Allowance for a month.
Unable to afford food, or electricity to safely store his insulin in the fridge, David died from fatal diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition which occurs when a lack of insulin in the blood causes the body to break down tissue for energy.
It was also discovered that there was no food in his stomach when he died.
A Coroner had previously denied any further investigation into Mr Clapson’s death, on the basis that his death was caused by ‘natural causes’. But in a submission to Hertfordshire Coroner, the human rights team at Leigh Day claim the Government’s cruel benefit sanctions regime contributed, or played a causative factor in his death.
The law firm also argue that conducting a fresh investigation would be in the “public interest”, especially in the light of the cinema release of the award-winning film I, Daniel Blake.
The ground-breaking film about a disabled man’s battle with the welfare system, following a huge heart attack, has been critically acclaimed and managed to break into the UK top 10 in the first week of its release.
In their submission to the Coroner, Leigh Day argue: “The role played by the imposition of a benefit sanction in Mr. Clapson’s death, the systems in place to manage the risks posed by benefit sanctions to those who receive them, and the decision-making of DWP staff when imposing benefit sanctions on vulnerable and at-risk individuals, are of wider public importance and are matters of significant public concern.
It continues: “These matters have been considered in a number of reviews and reports, which support Ms. Thompson’s submissions on the strong public interest in this case.”
Leigh Day, who are representing Mr Clapson’s sister Gill Thompson, also draw attention to a UN report published on Monday, which they say expresses “grave concerns” into the use of benefit sanctions in the UK’s social security system and the devastating impact they have on vulnerable people.
Merry Varney, who is representing Ms Thompson on behalf of Leigh Day, said: “We hope that these submissions will show the Coroner that there is a reason to suspect that David died an unnatural death and that an investigation should be opened with a view to holding a full Inquest into the circumstances of David’s death.
“Inquests and Coronial Investigations play a fundamental role in ensuring preventable or avoidable deaths are identified and that steps are taken to prevent another tragedy.
“The United Nations recently expressed their concern at the absence of due process and access to justice in the UK for those affected by the use of sanctions by the DWP and an Inquest into David’s death would be at least an initial step towards addressing these grave concerns.”
Gill Thompson said: “Although this cannot change things for David, I will continue the campaign to help prevent further deaths and suffering on the vulnerable and sick in our society by the use of unjust sanctions.
“I would like to thank everyone for their overwhelming support throughout this campaign, and wonderful and heartfelt words of comfort, without this support we could not hope to make these changes.”