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Dexter Bristol: Family of Windrush man walk out of inquest over refusal to call Home Office

Dexter Bristol's mother said coroner William Dolman was "very rude"

28 August, 2018 — By William McLennan

Sentina Bristol: “We are fighting for justice” 

The family of a man who died while suffering from a “great deal of stress” caused by the government’s hostile immigration policies walked out of an inquest today (Tuesday) after a coroner refused to make the Home Office an “interested person” in the case.

Dexter Bristol, 57, collapsed and died outside his home in Mullen Tower, Holborn, on March 29.

Lawyers representing his mother, Sentina, pulled out of the inquest and vowed to launch a judicial review after assistant coroner William Dolman turned down their request that the Home Office be formally invited to attend the hearing.

He also refused to take evidence from a medical expert on the links between stress and heart failure.

Speaking outside court, Ms Bristol said: “I think he was very rude, although he wasn’t speaking direct to me, he was very rude. No sympathy for anyone.”

She added: “We’d like justice. That is what we are fighting for.”


Dexter Bristol came to the UK from Grenada aged eight 

Dr Dolman made his ruling after a heated exchange with the family’s barrister Una Morris.

Dr Dolman repeatedly said: “Do not tell me how to run my court.”

He said: “Please sit down. Show me some courtesy.”

When Ms Morris did not comply with his request to sit down and end her legal submissions, Dr Dolman abruptly adjourned proceedings.

After taking a five-minute break, he apologised to Ms Morris and said: “I didn’t intend any discourtesy to you all all.”

Ms Morris responded: “My concern is not so much me, but the impact this is having on the family. The family are deeply upset by the way you spoke to me.”

Dr Dolman said: “I apologise to them as well.”

Mr Bristol, who was born in Grenada, arrived in the UK in 1968, aged eight, to join his mother. Grenada was then a British colony and Ms Bristol, a nurse and a British subject, moved to England to help plug the NHS labour shortage.

The inquest later continued in the absence of Ms Bristol and her legal representatives.

Jacqueline McKenzie, an immigration lawyer, who had been working on Mr Bristol’s case before his death, told the court: “He really got himself into a terrible state about this. We saw him deteriorate before our eyes.”

She said that Mr Bristol had been found a job, but had been told he could not work because he did not have any documents to prove his immigration status in the UK. She was in the process of collecting evidence to prove he had been in the country since the late-1960s when he died.

“He got more and more stressed,” Ms McKenzie said. “I took a very sad phone call from him where he thought he was about to lose his home.”

Dr Alan Bates, a pathologist at the Royal Free Hospital, told the court that Mr Bristol had long-standing heart problems, including an enlarged heart.

Dr Dolman that Mr Bristol died of natural causes, having suffered cardiac arrhythmia.

Dr Dolman said: “Here was a man that was at risk of death at any time with his quite severe heart disease, said Mr Bates.”

He added: “There were no suspicious circumstances, but I accept from the evidence that the deceased was suffering a great deal of stress at the time…to leave that out would be unfair and unjust.”

After the hearing, Ms McKenzie said: “I think the start of the proceedings were very, very difficult. I think the coroner did not show courtesy to the family or to their legal team. I understand how they feel.”

“I think it’s very evident to everyone that was present today that the stress that Dexter was under as a result of not being able to prove his immigrations status in the UK, the impact that was having on his right to access work, his right to access benefits, the potential that he was going to lose his home, especially that we now know the process he was put through to prove his status wasn’t required at all, as has been acknowledged by the current secretary of state and the previous one.”

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