Author: Tom Herbert
Dexter Bristol, who moved to the UK when he was eight, died of heart failure while trying to prove his British citizenship in March. Mr Bristol, from Camden, north London, travelled with his mother Sentina, who had a British subject passport from Grenada and worked as an NHS nurse.
But he lost his job as a cleaner over questions about his right to be in the country and was then denied benefits, as he could not prove he had not entered the country illegally.
He died at 57 on the Thursday before Good Friday, before seeing a letter sent to him which suggested there was a breakthrough in his case.
His immigration lawyer, Jacqueline McKenzie, said his battle to prove his right to be in the UK had taken a devastating toll on his health.
‘We saw at the outset a very robust person but distressed by the fact that he was having to prove his status in the country, even though he had been here since 1968,’ she said.
‘He was prepared to fight but, as the months went on and he was required to find more evidence, it became very difficult and we saw him just decline into a shadow of himself.’
Giving evidence at his inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court in central London, she said Mr Bristol would not have been forced to go through the process under the current Home Office rules.
Mr Bristol’s family walked out of the inquest after a heated exchange between their lawyer and the coroner. His relatives wanted to make submissions to the court about the possible role that Home Office policy played in his health.
But coroner Dr William Dolman ruled that the Home Office should not be an interested party in the inquest because it was not relevant to the immediate circumstances of his death.
Speaking after leaving Tuesday’s hearing, Mr Bristol’s mother Sentina said: ‘We want justice, that’s what we’re fighting for – justice. That’s what I would like to see happen.’ Before the family asked the court to rise so they could withdraw, there were heated exchanges between Dr Dolman and the Bristol family’s lawyer.
Dr Dolman conducted the inquest without any of Mr Bristol’s relatives or their lawyers present and concluded that he died from natural causes – acute cardiac arrhythmia.
He added: ‘I accept from the evidence that the deceased was suffering from a great deal of stress at the time.’