Charity day supports bid to raise legal fees for inquest

Some of those who attended the fundraiser for Connor Sparrowhawk. Pictures: OX67569 Andrew Walmsley

Some of those who attended the fundraiser for Connor Sparrowhawk. Pictures: OX67569 Andrew Walmsley Buy this photo

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

FRIENDS and family of teenager Connor Sparrowhawk gathered to raise money to pay for lawyers to represent them at his inquest.

The 18-year-old drowned last year at Slade House in Headington, a mental health unit, after suffering an epileptic fit while having an unsupervised bath.

A report into Mr Sparrowhawk’s death has found the tragedy could have been prevented, while the Care Quality Commission closed the unit to new admissions after raising concerns about staff practices.

Oxford Mail:

Ulla Raisanen, Connor’s mum Sara Ryan, and Lucy Lee-Allen

His family is now hoping to raise the £30,000 needed for legal fees to cover the cost of lawyers representing the family at his inquest.

An event with music and food was held at the Oxford Sports and Social Club in Roman Way on Saturday from which money was raised through ticket sales. It is part of a campaign which will last the same amount of time as Mr Sparrowhawk was in the crisis-hit unit.

His mother, Headington resident Sara Ryan, said: “Connor died completely unnecessarily and it is absolutely shocking that a hospital could not look after him.

“The pain and devastation that I have felt on a daily basis is so awful but to have these fundraising events has been an absolute joy.

“We want justice and accountability from the inquest. I am moved that so many people have turned up.”

Connor’s step-father Richard Huggins said: “There are people here we have met through this process and it is great that so many people are generous with their time.”

Mr Sparrowhawk suffered from autism and epilepsy and was at Slade House for 107 days.

He died after being found underwater in a bath. A post-mortem examination found he died from drowning likely to have been caused by an epileptic seizure and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has apologised for his death.

Seven members of staff are under investigation and it is unclear whether the unit will ever reopen.

Inquests into a person’s death are held to find out who the deceased was, and how, when and where they died. Legal representation is not always necessary as coroners usually question witnesses but lawyers can be used in complex cases.

Oxford Mail:

Connor Sparrowhawk

Mr Sparrowhawk’s family wants Southern Health and its staff to be held to account for Connor’s death and for a corporate manslaughter charge to be brought against the trust.

Saturday’s event was attended by people who knew Mr Sparrowhawk or who have supported his family.

Dan Norey, a manager at Northway-based charity Parasol Project, which runs holiday activities for disabled and non-disabled teenagers, said: “Connor came to us and seemed to enjoy it. What happened to him was outrageous.”

Amanda Robson, who runs a youth club in South Oxford, said: “I feel that if the family needs answers then we should fund them to find out what they are.” The event was organised by Rebecca Denson-Cleaver, a friend of Ms Ryan’s. Money raised is still being added up.

Southern Health did not respond to requests for a comment.

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