Jo Jukes, widow and Director of For The Fallen, explains how her family used the Human Rights Act to have the cause of her late husband’s trauma officially recognised.
‘The Human Rights Act enabled this to happen – it allowed us to expose the failing systems that contributed to Dave’s death and the Coroner to find that his death had been caused by his service. Without the Human Rights Act, all we would have got was a finding of suicide and no wider learning for the Army, the health authorities or the police. And no public recognition of the mental trauma that so many veterans suffer.’
My husband was LCpl Dave Jukes.
Dave was a veteran of Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. He was a committed family man – he was kind and funny and loving. As the years went by, the consequences of what he had seen on those military campaigns affected him more and more and he became badly affected by survivor’s guilt – he could not accept that he had survived when so many had not. The mental scars would not heal and his behaviour became more troubled and out of character. He did not feel safe around us and we did not feel safe around him. But we continued to love and support him. Dave was very conscious of his complex mental health needs. He talked openly of suicide. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and acute depression.
I was desperate to get the mental health support and treatment for him that he so desperately needed. We were passed from pillar to post, Dave constantly being asked to tell his story over and over again, something he found incredibly difficult to do. Not three weeks before Dave died, I told his GP, ‘either I will die or Dave will die if we are not able to get him some help.’ By this time Dave was sleeping rough near the family home in awful conditions.
Dave hung himself in the alley behind our home on 9 August 2018. He was one of 52 veteran suicides that year.
There was an inquest. The Coroner decided that it should be a ‘Article 2’ inquest. This means that Article 2 of the Human Rights Act was engaged and that the wider circumstances of his death would be investigated, including his diagnosis of PTSD, his experiences in the Army, the multiple efforts we had made to get him the right kind of care and treatment and whether the various state agencies that could and should have been involved with him had done enough. The inquest was thorough and far-reaching because of this. Formal ‘Prevention of Future Deaths’ reports were issued against two health authorities and the police, ensuring that lessons were learned and, we hope, that future families may not have to suffer what we have suffered. Most importantly of all to the family, the Coroner recorded that Dave’s suicide had been caused by his military service. As far as we know, this was the first time a Coroner had made such a finding.
The Human Rights Act enabled this to happen – it allowed us to expose the failing systems that contributed to Dave’s death and the Coroner to find that his death had been caused by his service. Without the Human Rights Act, all we would have got was a finding of suicide and no wider learning for the Army, the health authorities or the police. And no public recognition of the mental trauma that so many veterans suffer.
Jo Jukes is the Founder and Director of For the Fallen, a community interest company established to provide support to military families affected by suicide.