London

Richmond mental health home probe after teenager’s suicide

Sophie Image copyright Family Handout
Image caption Sophie Bennett, 19, took her life in Lancaster Lodge in Richmond, west London, in May 2016

A charity in charge of a mental health home in London where a teenager was found hanged is being investigated.

Sophie Bennett, 19, took her life in Lancaster Lodge in Richmond, in May 2016, one year after being admitted.

The Charity Commission has now opened an inquiry into the management of Richmond Psychosocial Foundation International, which runs the home.

An inquest into Ms Bennett's death in February found the facility's leadership "grossly inadequate".

The coroner also identified serious failings by the trustees to keep their beneficiaries safe from harm.

The inquest at West London Coroner's Court also heard the charity's head, Elly Jensen, was forced to step away from her own psychiatric charity in the 1980s due financial mismanagement allegations.

A new inquiry will now investigate the trustees' safeguarding arrangements and highlight what changes need to be made.

'Highly distressing reading'

Michelle Russell, of the Charity Commission, said the coroner's report into Ms Bennett's death "made for highly distressing reading".

She added: "The coroner found that governance failings at the charity directly contributed to Sophie's death. We want to see the charity address those failings as a matter of urgency."

"The opening of this inquiry reflects the seriousness of the coroner's findings and our concerns."

The Bennett family welcomed the inquiry but expressed their anger that it had taken so long for Ms Jansen to be investigated.

"In the aftermath of Sophie's death it became apparent that the Charity Commission, as long ago as 1992, inquired into the activities of the founder Elly Jansen", they said.

"That inquiry catalogued a long list of serious failings in the way she operated charities.

"We believe that it is only due to our persistence that it is finally launching this formal inquiry."

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