Thomas was a beautiful, loving, compassionate and most of all mischievous little boy. He enjoyed spending time with his family and was loved like only a youngest brother to three big sisters can be. Thomas was a very much loved son, brother and uncle.
Thomas had Down Syndrome and by the time he was a teenager he was known to also be autistic. Thomas used Makaton to communicate and was able to make his needs understood when people got to know him.
As a teenager Thomas became more anxious and we asked for support to keep him at home. This support resulted in Thomas being taken away by the Police and getting sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He was taken into care where he was abused by a care worker, who received a suspended jail sentence. Thomas was traumatised by the abuse, his behaviour was increasingly unsettled and distressed. He received no specialist trauma support and instead was sectioned again under the Mental Health Act and moved to an Assessment and Treatment Unit in Bradford.
We were concerned about the care he received, how over medicated he was, and that he had a number of unexplained injuries as a result of physical restraint. We tried to raise our concerns with the council and carers again and again, but they would not listen. In fact it seemed that we were treated with contempt for daring to complain.
Bradford said that they could not provide support for Thomas in our community, so he was moved to Sheffield to a ‘specialist service’ run by Lifeways. This move was against his, and our, wishes and further allegations of abuse were dismissed.
Thomas’s physical and mental health declined rapidly and we were screaming out for help. Six months later he was dead.
It is coming up to 6 years since Thomas died. We trusted in the coronial process but as time has passed the scope of Thomas’s inquest has been narrowed further and further. His inquest didn’t examine any of the wider failings in care, the abuse he suffered, the lack of trauma support or why Thomas couldn’t live in his local community. It just looked at the last 5 days of his life. The first coroner promised a thorough Article 2 inquest, this started last year and was put on hold due to Lifeways wanting more expert evidence. The experience of this year’s inquest was very difficult for us, with the focus narrowing even further, and the expert evidence we waited for not even being heard.
The jury were instructed that the only safe finding they could reach was that Thomas died from natural causes. We are left wondering how it can be natural for a fit and healthy 20 year old to die from a chest infection.
We feel Thomas’s voice has been dismissed in death, as it was in life.
We would like to thank Sebastian Del Monte and Emily Formby for their legal representation, and everyone who has supported us in our campaign for justice for Thomas.