Social worker ‘not told of missing Gaia’s mental health assessment’ – inquest

Teenager Gaia Pope-Sutherland’s social worker was never told she had undergone an assessment under the Mental Health Act just weeks before she disappeared, an inquest heard.

Sarah Lock said she had last seen the 19-year-old (pictured) on October 17 2017 just four days before her worried family took her to Poole Hospital due to concerns about her.

The college student was assessed under the Mental Health Act but later discharged because she did not meet the criteria for being detained.

Just weeks later, on November 7, Miss Pope-Sutherland was reported missing from her home and her naked body found dead 11 days later on cliff tops in undergrowth. She had died from hypothermia.

The teenager, who suffered from severe epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, had been experiencing “ongoing manic episodes” and was also worried about the imminent release from prison of the man she had accused of raping her.

Miss Lock told Dorset Coroner’s Court that she was not informed of the assessment and had she been told she would have arranged to meet Miss Pope-Sutherland to discuss it.

Rachael Griffin, senior coroner for Dorset, asked the witness: “If you had been contacted, you would have attempted to contact Gaia.

“That would have been an opportunity for you to speak to her to assess her needs.”

Miss Lock replied: “Absolutely, yes. To see if she wanted any on-going support with her mental health or epilepsy.”

Ms Griffin asked: “We can’t say what would have happened but it was an opportunity for you discuss Gaia’s needs with her and if required make an ongoing referral to another agency?”

Miss Lock replied: “Absolutely.”

Ms Griffin asked: “That was therefore an opportunity missed?”

“Yes,” she replied.

Miss Lock said that now changes had been made and social workers are now informed of any Mental Health Act assessments.

The inquest heard that in their last meeting on October 17 they discussed Miss Pope-Sutherland making a housing application to live in the Bournemouth area in supported accommodation, but she did not disclose any worries about her mental health.

From then until learning of the teenager’s disappearance, Miss Lock did not have any contact with other agencies about her.

“If I had it would be in my case notes, so no,” she said.

Sophy Miles, representing Miss Pope-Sutherland’s family, asked: “Is it your evidence that there was absolutely nothing that could have been done to support Gaia during the period when she was looking for housing and staying between addresses.”

Miss Lock replied: “Again, on October 17 I was led by Gaia and Gaia wanted the housing application done and she didn’t raise any concern and she was staying with family and friends.

“Gaia had lived with this for a long time, I wasn’t concerned that anybody she was staying with didn’t know how to support her.”

The inquest continues.

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