Inquests resulting in a verdict of suicide on the rise in Northumberland
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A total of 44 inquests resulted in a verdict of suicide in 2021, up from 30 in 2020 and 18 in 2019. In 2022, the figure reduced to 21.
However, Karen Lounton – Northumberland County Council’s service manager for coroner services – has said the link between the two is “unclear” and “unquantified”.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Ms Lounton said: “There is a train of thought that the pandemic may have impacted on suicide statistics, but that link is unclear and unquantified.
“Over the course of the last three years, in inquests that our coroner has heard where a conclusion of suicide has been returned, it wasn’t uncommon for the deceased, prior to death, to have expressed anguish regarding Covid and the pandemic, and feelings of loneliness and despair.
“Albeit that is not linked to that suicide conclusion, it has been discussed in court.”
However, Ms Lounton did also explain that a landmark ruling in 2020 would also have had an impact on the figures.
In 2020, in a case known as Maughan v HM Coroner for Oxfordshire, it was deemed that the burden of proof for suicide should correspond to the standard set out in civil law – “on the balance of probabilities”.
Previously, coroners had to be satisfied “beyond all reasonable doubt” that a person had intended to take their own life to give a conclusion of suicide.
Ms Lounton added: “The coroner believes there is a number of explanations. One of the really important consequences that may drive that increase is the Maughan case. It changed the standard of proof in suicide inquest cases.”