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Luke Hobson: police change investigation process following independent inquiry into the force’s handling of Hitchin teenager’s sudden death

26 May 2021

The way sudden deaths of children are investigated in Hertfordshire will change following an independent review of the tragic accidental death inquiry of Hitchin teenager Luke Hobson.

Concerns raised by the coroner and Luke’s family following his inquest prompted an in-depth probe about how the inquiry into his death was managed and supervised.

Luke was warming up at Blueharts Hockey Club in Lucas Lane, on 28 March 2019, when he was struck on the head with a hockey stick being swung by another boy. He sustained serious injuries, going into cardiac arrest, and was airlifted to hospital for specialist treatment. But following a medical assessment, Luke’s brain injuries were shown to be irrecoverable and attempts to resuscitate him were stopped.

Following Luke’s inquest last October, Hertfordshire Senior Coroner Mr Geoffrey Sullivan wrote to Chief Constable Charlie Hall, identifying a number of critical shortcomings in the investigation that needed to be addressed.

This included failure to gather CCTV from the club itself, no check of health and safety policies at the club and a lack of understanding around national best practice with regards to basic hockey safety.

Charlie Hall, Chief Constable said: “The evidence we presented to the inquest court was sub-standard and I am grateful that our shortcomings have been flagged as it gives us a chance to do things better in the future. It’s clear to me that we could and should have done a much more thorough job in investigating every aspect of the incident, not only for Luke’s sake but also for his heartbroken family too. I am truly sorry for what has happened and we are changing the way we investigate the sudden deaths of young people with immediate effect.”

He added: “I cannot begin to comprehend the impact of losing a child and the review exposed not only failings in the way the investigation was managed and supervised, it also highlighted that Luke’s family did not get the professional support they should have had which is just not acceptable.

“Furthermore, we perpetuated our mistakes by publishing a statement at conclusion of Luke’s inquest that knowing what we do now, brushed over our short comings and no doubt would have caused his family huge distress. This is the last thing we would ever have wanted to do and we are very sorry.

“From now on, all investigations relating to the death of a child should have a senior investigating officer of the rank of detective inspector and any reports prepared for the coroner in relation to the death of a child should be reviewed by a senior officer prior to submission. There will also be measures put in place to ensure bereaved families get the updates and support they deserve. I hope Luke’s family and the coroner see our response as a sign of how seriously we have treated their concerns.”

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