With the conclusion of the inquest, it seems a good point to say some (inquest related) thanks to peeps. This isn’t to say the campaign is over. Simply, as someone said at the weekend, ‘a chapter has closed’. It’s a long list (which is good) and in no order because there isn’t one. Apologies if it comes across a bit Gwynny oscar speech like. In the darkest of dark spaces we’ve been forced into in the last two and a half years the good bits are bloody good. And should be recognised as such.
I’ve lost count of how many people have mentioned George’s legendary tweeting to me in the past two weeks or so. With admiration, awe and a good dose of incredulity. It was an extraordinary feat and every one of those dark moments uncovered during the inquest deserved to be beamed out to a wider audience. George has done so much more than live tweeting though. She’s informal (and voluntary) campaign manager, attended meetings with our legal team and INQUEST, and been a central #LBBill mover. She’s managed the various social media accounts, liaised with press, stitched her socks off, raged, campaigned, cried, laughed and survived two weeks in our grubby gaff. Good on yer.
Our legal representatives
It’s fair to say that we hold Paul Bowen QC, Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Charlotte Haworth Hird (and Esen Tunc and Keina Yoshida) in remarkable regard. Committed and exemplary human rights advocates with deeply impressive knowledge and experience. All three involved from the first few weeks after LB’s death, consistently and sensitively informing and involving us in decision making throughout this process. [Shared decision making bods in healthcare settings could do with taking a peek or two across the disciplinary divide to see how this can work in practice]. Submissions were written overnight after exhausting days. Emails sent in the early hours. We witnessed astonishing (and inspiring) working practice/expertise in and outside of the courtroom. They were also good fun and embraced the chaos of family, friends, banter, questions, and a family room humming with daily takeaway runs. LB could not have had a better team looking out for his back. (As he would have fully expected, love him).
Family and friends
What can I say really other than complete awesomeness. The jury could have been in no doubt that LB was one deeply loved dude. Extended family and friends sitting in the public gallery daily. Big G (grandad) was going to dip in and out but stuck out the whole thing (in, let’s face it, not the most comfortable space in the world). Much of what we heard was harrowing, particularly for the kids, but they sat through it (with their equally wonderful mates/cousin) with composure and engagement. I don’t suppose the various barristers have ever been so googled or their various approaches/personalities discussed and debated as they were every evening as we decamped to the pub across the road. It helped enormously to see so many people across the two weeks. The My Life My Choice crew; Fran stitching gingerbread figures at the back; Anup sitting so patiently day after day even though, as she said, the words were too long to understand; people travelling considerable distances to show their support; JusticeforLB stalwarts, Charlie’s Angels… even LB’s head teacher. An antidote really to the appalling treatment he received in his brief adult life.
Beth, the Coroner’s Officer (and the Coroner)
Beth, the Coroner’s Officer, was simply a delight, personally and professionally. Kind, sensitive, considerate, efficient and composed. She managed the demands of eight legal teams, a printer on the second floor and repeatedly being asked to produce relevant pages from evidence bundles and on the overhead screen with patience and good humour. I don’t know how many times she was asked to pull up pages 1138-9 of the medical records bundle (‘the bitten tongue episode’) and scroll up or down… ‘a bit further Beth…’ But she did it. Seamlessly.
There were mixed feelings about the coroner but I thought he was consistently even handed, fair, kind and considerate. He seemed to be following an inquisitorial script despite adversarial sniping from (some) legal representatives. And he ended the inquest with his condolences which seemed right.
Behind the scenes stuff
Enormous appreciation to work colleagues/friends who stepped in and made my work magically disappear over the past three or four weeks. No fuss, no intrusion, just action. Likewise thanks to Linda who somehow organised delicious nosh to be on the kitchen table when we fell back in from the pub almost unable to function. And to Chiade who contacted fellow journalists and media contacts, generating the most unexpected (and unlikely) media interest on the last day. Thanks also to other behind the scenes fairies for their (warming) drops of brilliance…
We were put in touch with INQUEST in the days after LB died and they have been consistently supportive and informative. A tiny charity who punch way beyond their funding/staffing levels in terms of what they achieve. Our caseworker, Selen, an oasis of calm, kindness, experience and sensitivity. Deb Coles, joint CEO, a powerhouse of action underpinned by a passionate belief in justice. More integrity and decency fighting for light against a public sector blackout.
Not an easy gig to be on a jury over a two week inquest. Deeply distressing content, repeated jumping around medical records and other documents, 15 or so live witnesses questioned by eight legal teams, hours of waiting. The engagement and obvious commitment of these nine members of the public was again exemplary. This was apparent by the questions they asked across the two weeks. They deliberated for a few hours and came back with a clear, thoughtful, informed and sensible determination. While questions remain about the coronial process in England (see a piece by Elaine Allaby published today for more on this), LB’s unshakeable faith in the British justice system was born out in the end.