Inquests could be held into stillbirths thanks to Northampton mum's campaign

Michelle Hemmington of Kingsley could bring about a major change in the law regarding inquests into stillbirths.
Michelle Hemmington of Kingsley could bring about a major change in the law regarding inquests into stillbirths.

A Northampton mother who was forced to enter a four-year legal battle to find out how her 35-minute old baby died is on the verge of changing the law for stillbirth inquests.

Under the existing legislation, coroners are obliged to hold inquests only for babies who have shown signs of life after being born.

But a six-year campaign led by Michelle Hemmington of Kingsley could now bring about a major change in the law after she found that hundreds of mothers like her had been left struggling for answers following stillbirths.

She and her friend Nicky Lyon launched the Campaign for Safer Births in 2013 in a bid to make the HM Coroner begin holding inquests for stillborn babies.

Her own son Louie died in 2011 - but she had to undergo a four-year legal battle to prove that errors by doctors had, in fact, contributed to his death.

Now a private members bill that has just passed its third reading at the House of Lords could soon make it law for coroners to investigate all stillbirths, which occur after 37 weeks of pregnancy - or full-term.

Sarah Harper, senior associate at Access Legal Solicitors, which supports the Campaign for Safer Births said: ‘Michelle and Nicky deserve many congratulations on their achievement; they have lobbied hard and effectively for this outcome.

"Their hope now is that the change in the law will help achieve the national ambition to halve the number of stillbirths and make maternity services in the UK world class."

While inquests would not replace investigations by the hospital or NHS agencies, the coroner would be able to consider whether any lessons could be learned and make suitable recommendations to improve safety.

The Government is still consulting on giving coroners in England and Wales powers to investigate all full-term stillbirths without any need to gain consent or permission from a third-party before exercising the new power.