Sophie Bennett,

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INQUEST

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Sophie Bennett, 19, had been cared for at Lancaster Lodge due to her complex needs

A care home clinician has been jailed for failing to cooperate with an inquest into the death of a mentally ill teenager, in a legal first.

Sophie Bennett, 19, hanged herself at Lancaster Lodge care facility in Richmond, south-west London, in 2016.

An inquest found “neglect” contributed to her death but Duncan Lawrence, her “clinical lead”, had failed to attend and disclose evidence to the hearing.

He was jailed for four months at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court.

Ms Bennett’s death followed an overhaul of her treatment, including the cancellation of external therapies and the loss of key staff.

She had been at the residential home since April 2015 due to complex needs involving bipolar disorder, social anxiety and atypical autism.

The new regime, described as a “boot camp” by Ms Bennett, contributed to her death, the jury at West London Coroner’s Court found in February.

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Stefan Rousseau/PA

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Duncan Lawrence did not have a medical doctorate but had a certificate from a Danish distance learning college

Lawrence, 60, who had a non-medical doctorate, oversaw Ms Bennett’s treatment in her final months like “a dictatorship”, the inquest heard.

He failed to attend the hearing, instead providing written statements, prompting the coroner to fine him £650.

But he was subsequently charged with intentionally withholding evidence from an inquest, the first case of its kind in England and Wales.

Lawrence, who was unrepresented at court, apologised to the family.

He said the charge was “nothing to do” with him, and was “all down to a big misunderstanding”.

Speaking outside the court, Ms Bennett’s father Ben Bennett said: “It is not about the sentence he’s getting, it’s that he has never accounted for himself or produced the evidence.

“His apology means nothing, he has had plenty of opportunities to do that. It is too late.”

The sentencing comes as regulator the Care Quality Commission attempts to bring a separate legal action against the Richmond Psychosocial International Foundation and manager Peggy Jhugroo, who was a senior figure at Lancaster Lodge when Ms Bennett died.

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