'There is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken' Northampton coroner calls on councils to take action after man's death at homeless camp

The inquest took place in Northampton General Hospital's boardroom
The inquest took place in Northampton General Hospital's boardroom

A coroner is calling on Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council to help reduce future deaths after a man who lived at a homeless camp was found dead next to a canal.

Vadims Aleksejevs, 31, was found face down behind St James Retail Park by another rough sleeper, on November 9 2016, an inquest heard earlier this month.

In the regulation 28 report submitted after the inquest, assistant coroner Hassan Shah wrote: "During the course of the inquest, the evidence revealed matters giving rise to concern. In my opinion, there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken'.

"At the time of the deceased's death, there were seven tents containing Latvian, Polish and other nationals. The circumstances of this case may present themselves again over winter.

"It is not known if adult social care or addiction services provide any form of outreach services to the homeless."

He also mentioned in the report that it was possible that vulnerable people such as children or the elderly could also be living at the camp.

Councillor Stephen Hibbert, cabinet member for housing and wellbeing, said: “This was a tragic death, which under different circumstances may have been avoided.

“We take our responsibility very seriously and have a proactive outreach team who encourage people sleeping rough to engage with us and the other support services available in Northampton.

“We will be writing to the coroner to inform them of the housing services that we provide, including our new emergency night shelter which opened in February, as well as the work we do with local partners who offer additional support.”

Authorities are obliged to respond to this report within 56 days of the date the report was submitted.

Mr Shah added in the report: 'It is unclear if there are any other housing options available or indeed if there is any statutory duty to house vulnerable individuals living on such campsites'.

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with Northampton Borough Council, which is the lead authority for housing and homelessness.

"Our health and wellbeing organisation First for Wellbeing offers a range of support services to prevent homelessness and we also commission two agencies to provide treatment and support for people with a substance misuse problem, including targeted help for the most vulnerable including the homeless.”

In a narrative verdict read out to the inquest last month, coroner Hassan Shah said: "On the balance of probability, the synthetic cannabinoid used in conjunction with alcohol are the likely causes of death, exacerbated by the outdoor location and cold temperatures.

"The susceptibility to hypothermia would be increased by alcohol intoxication and all three factors are likely to have been significant, probably acting together."

Mr Shah told the court that he would file a regulation 28 report on how future deaths can be prevented at the camp and has sent the report to Northampton Borough Council and Northamptonshire County Council so they can take action.

Coroners have a legal power and duty to write a report following an inquest if it appears there is a risk of other deaths occurring in similar circumstances.