The Inquest into the death of 16 year old Thomas Gallagher concluded on 3 August 2016. Throughout the six day inquest, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) were heavily criticised due to numerous failings on the night of Tom’s disappearance. Despite this, the Jury found that whilst GMP had committed several serious failings and breaches, their conduct did not contribute to Tom’s death.
Tom was always an exceptionally bright child with a passion for languages and maths. As well as his many academic achievements, Tom was also had a keen interest in karate. Tom did suffer from mental health issues and made a few attempts to take his own life following changes in his relationships. He was admitted to Preston’s Platform unit at the hospital in April 2015.
Following his discharge, Tom completed his GCSE’s and obtained employment for the summer working with his father. His behaviour and mood appeared to improve. He did have a number of changes occurring; splitting up with his girlfriend, attending the school prom, finishing his GCSEs, starting a new job, and being transitioned from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to adult services having turned 16.
In the evening of Friday 10 July 2015, Tom and his younger brother, Daniel, had a minor argument at home. Their parents intervened in order to keep the peace. Tom decided to go out to walk the dog. Something he often did to release his tension. He returned, let the dog back in and then went back out again immediately. At around 9pm, Tom’s mother began to worry about his whereabouts and attempted to make contact with him. His father did the same. Shortly after, the family began to search the local area for Tom.
At 02:44 on Saturday 11 July 2015, Tom’s father called the police and reported Tom missing. He also made the call handler aware of Tom’s vulnerabilities in light of his mental health. Tom’s report was placed as ‘grade two’ which requires a response within one hour. He was assured that an officer would call at the address within one hour. This did not happen at all.
Tom’s parents did not hear anything further from the police until they called again at 8am. Even then, there was no update as no action had been taken by GMP. Tom’s parents went out again to look for Tom, on foot and in the car. They came extremely close to finding Tom themselves.
As they reached Holly Mount Lane, from different sides, they were informed by a civilian that a young boy had been found ‘long dead’, hanging from a tree. They later identified Tom in hospital.
The police were heavily criticised in the report commissioned by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) due to their complete lack of response, failure to follow their own policies and procedures, as well as their issues surrounding resources and training.
Greater Manchester Police were legally represented by Counsel. There was also a considerable amount of documentation including data analysis, statements of police officers involved, and a report commissioned by the IPCC. The Coroner ruled early in the in the proceedings that this case would be treated as an Article 2 inquest. Due to the constant legal arguments against Article 2 being engaged raised by GMP, the family approached INQUEST, a charity supporting bereaved families going through the inquest process. With the help of Southerns and INQUEST, the family managed to successfully secure exceptional case funding from the Legal Aid Agency upon short notice. This ensured that they were placed on equal footing throughout the inquest and had the benefit of Counsel to skilfully question witnesses.
Even throughout the inquest hearing, the legal representatives for GMP made numerous legal submissions to the Coroner regarding the engagement of Article 2 based on the Fitbit band analysis which showed a lack of movement from 9pm, some five hours before the police were called. Counsel for the family was successful in ensuring that the submissions were not accepted and the inquest continued to consider the failings of the police. However, it was clear that this would have been difficult for the family to face, considering that the inquest process is hard enough on its own without having to contend with numerous legal arguments.
The Jury returned a conclusion of suicide, with a short narrative confirming that Tom’s mental health issues played a part in the build up to his death.
It was also noted that there were issues in the alteration of appointments with medical services due to the transitional care Tom was receiving at the time of his death.
The failings of the police as listed above were also recorded on the Record of Inquest.
In light of the concerns raised throughout the Inquest regarding the failings of Greater Manchester Police, the Coroner ruled that a prevention of future deaths report would be made to Greater Manchester Police.
After the inquest concluded the family made the following statement to the press;
“Tom was a confident and caring 16-year-old boy who excelled at school and had just embarked on a part-time summer job with his dad.
Like many young men, Tom was receiving assistance with his mental health.
He went missing on the evening of July 10, 2015. Having searched the local areas and exhausting all avenues, we reached out for police assistance at 2.44am. We explained his vulnerabilities concerning his recent mental health history. Subsequently two members of the public found Tom five hours later. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) failed to respond at all.
Tom’s inquest and an IPCC investigation has revealed a series of serious failings as well as inadequate staffing levels. GMP breached their own emergency response policy in failing to call us back, allocate our need to an officer or escalate their inability to resource our call. We had no reassurance of help.
We are pleased that GMP have admitted some of the failings, however despite Tom’s death being over one year ago, GMP has made few improvements. We are pleased with the coroner’s recommendations to GMP calling for improvements to their systems.
Tom aspired to study maths at Oxford University, he also had a passion for languages and won two awards at school. As soon as he finished his GCSEs he started to teach himself Mandarin.
His GCSE results were released shortly after his death, he was awarded eight A*s and three As.”
If you or your family are faced with the unfortunate and difficult task of trying to represent yourselves in the inquest into the death of a loved one and feel you would benefit from legal assistance, please contact a member of our team – we offer a free initial consultation and represent families across the country. We are experienced in applying for exceptional funding, even at a late stage in the Inquest process.
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