Family set to take legal action against mental health service after man’s death at Norwich shopping centre

Matthew Dunham jumped to his death from the Castle Mall shopping centre in Norwich. Photo: Supplied Matthew Dunham jumped to his death from the Castle Mall shopping centre in Norwich. Photo: Supplied

Peter Walsh 
peter.walsh@archant.co.uk
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
11:34 AM

The family of a man who jumped to his death from Castle Mall in Norwich are taking legal action against mental health bosses who they say let down their son, it has emerged.

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Emergency services outside Norwich's Castle Mall. The shopping centre was evacuated.Emergency services outside Norwich's Castle Mall. The shopping centre was evacuated.

An inquest into the death of Matthew Dunham heard there were “fundamental deficiencies” in the way the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust had treated the 25-year-old who died after he jumped from the fifth floor of the shopping centre at about 7.20pm on May 9, last year.

The then coroner William Armstrong criticised the trust for its support of Mr Dunham which he described as “fragmented and unco-ordinated” with two mental health staff who were seeing Mr Dunham at the same time not aware of each others’ involvement and not sharing information.

The coroner also expressed grave concern that an emergency GP referral that should have been followed up within four hours, instead took two days. Mr Dunham’s family, who believe the mental health service let their son down, have instructed lawyers after deciding to take legal action against the trust.

Ben Ward, a medical negligence specialist for Ashton KCJ, said: “The details of Matthew’s torment and lack of help in the weeks before he died reveal a hapless and hopelessly bureaucratic mental health service, which completely betrayed him.

“Matthew was let down by those professionals whose job it was to protect him.”

At the inquest into Mr Dunham’s death in September last year, the coroner concluded that Mr Dunham intended to kill himself, but added that it was while suffering from a mental disorder and while in receipt of mental health services.

After the inquest, Mr Dunham’s family said in a statement: “We are heartbroken to know that Matthew went from a wonderful person to this in the space of nine weeks.

“Our son was an intelligent, caring person who sought professional help as soon as he realised he was depressed.”

In a statement issued after being informed Mr Dunham’s family intend to take legal action, Andrew Hopkins, acting chief executive at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The trust remains deeply saddened by the death of Matthew Dunham and I would like to reiterate how sorry we are for his family’s loss.”

Mr Dunham’s death was the first of two tragedies at the Castle Mall which have resulted in hoardings being installed on the upper levels of the shopping centre.

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