Nicky Stevens' parents shocked by DHB's call for second coronial inquest

The parents of a 21-year-old, whose suicide while in the care of a Waikato mental health facility was ruled avoidable, say they are shocked by the local District Health Board's (DHB) call for a second coronial inquest.

Nicky Stevens died in March 2015 during a stay at the Henry Rongomau Bennett mental health facility. He was let outside alone, despite his family saying he shouldn't be left unsupervised.

In December 2018, Coroner Wallace Bain ruled his death a suicide that had been "avoidable" and the DHB didn't take the necessary steps to keep him safe.

Mr Steven's mother, Jane Stevens, and his father, Dave Macpherson, said they have now received a letter from the Solicitor-General stating the DHB wanted a new inquest into their son's death.

"It just feels like there is no consideration of us as a family, there is no consideration of respect for the processes that we have been through, and no respect for our dead son," Ms Stevens told Newshub.

"Our health suffered, our family has absolutely suffered, our lives have been turned upside down. I don't know if I could cope with going through all that all over again. In fact, I am pretty sure I can't."

Mr Macpherson said: "We were flabbergasted, we had no idea they were going this far, we didn't even know you could ask for a whole new Coroner's inquest."

In a letter in January, the family was told the DHB's insurers had instructed its external counsel to raise concerns about the Coroner's process with the Solicitor-General.

But Mr Macpherson didn't think there would be a new inquiry.

"We hadn't been told a thing about it, the DHB had actually not told us the truth," he told The AM Show.

"They told us it was a relatively minor procedural point about one witness... now they are claiming the whole thing has to be redone."

Ms Stevens and Mr Macpherson wrote to the Prime Minister last week. In their letter, the pair said they didn't trust the DHB and called for an independent mediator.

After hearing on Tuesday of the DHB's desire to not only challenge the Coronial decision but for a second inquest, Ms Stevens said: "this latest action, hidden from us for two weeks, makes the intervention of the Prime Minister even more important".

Ms Stevens said the DHB initially looked as though it would take responsibility as it wanted to avoid repeating its mistakes.

"We thought that the DHB was serious about being part of the change that needs to happen, clearly they are not," she said.

Ms Stevens told Newshub in January that her family was "angry, upset and appalled" to see the DHB attempt to re-litigate findings.

"We thought all of the reports and reviews and hearings into Nicky's death had finished, and we would be able to draw a line under what had happened, and start to move on with our lives," she said.

"But it seems that Waikato DHB is still more concerned at covering its own butt, than it is in accepting any responsibility for Nicky's death."

A Waikato DHB spokesperson refused to confirm to Newshub if it was asking for a second inquiry.

They referred to previous comments provided to media which said they understood the process had already been lengthy and painful for the family.

"As per the Coroner's Act, we were sent the Coroner's draft report to provide feedback on. We responded with a considerable number of procedural concerns, not all of these have been acknowledged in the final report," the statement said.

"Our insurer has instructed the DHB's external counsel to raise concerns about the coroner's process with the Solicitor General, with our support."

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