Court finds Bristol University guilty of disability discrimination after student suicide

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Bristol University has been ordered to pay £50,000 in damages, including funeral costs, to the family of ‘hard-working and high achieving’ physics student Natasha Abrahart, who took her own life in April 2018.

Natasha was a known vulnerable student with a serious social anxiety disorder. On the day she died, she was supposed to participate in a 300-person lecture theatre group presentation, having struggled previously with several interviews and presentations that were part of her course. She had already attempted suicide several months earlier, and tutors and counsellors at the university were aware of this.

Bristol University breached the Equality Act

After her death, Natasha’s parents Robert and Margaret Abrahart took the university to court. They argued that the university discriminated against her as a disabled student, and that it had breached the Equality Act in the way it treated her.

On 20 May at Bristol County Court, His Honour Judge Alex Ralton ruled that the University had discriminated against Natasha and her disability. He found that she was treated unfairly because of her anxiety, and that these breaches of care directly led to her suicide. Judge Ralton has ordered the University to pay over £50,000 in damages to Natasha’s family, who say that the University of Bristol needs to accept that it is “time for change”.

How Novum Law can help

Novum Law medical negligence lawyer Mary Smith specialises in inquests and public enquiries. She is currently supporting several families that have lost loved ones to suicide at university, and says:

“Losing a loved one to suicide is devastating, especially when they’re a bright young person full of promise like Natasha.

“University should be an exciting time for a young person’s growth and development, yet Natasha was one of 11 students at Bristol University to take their own lives between 2016 and 2018. This ruling further underlines what was already painfully clear, the University has failed in its duty of care to its students.

“It was clear how much Natasha was struggling due to her anxiety, but no opportunities for accommodations to support her were ever made. The university failed to offer support, and a vulnerable young person was left to suffer tragic and avoidable consequences.

“In cases such as this, Novum Law can only offer our deepest condolences to Natasha’s loved ones. We hope that the compensation will be of some solace, but more importantly that Natasha’s case will be a long-overdue catalyst for Bristol University to accept its responsibilities and start doing better by its students.”                                                                                                                        

Novum Law’s specialist medical negligence team has extensive experience in mental health care issues and claims concerning community care and mental health services. Our knowledgeable and professional team are here to help and support bereaved families with compassion and care.

We provide specialist legal support nationwide across England and Wales. To book a free, no-obligation chat with us, call 0800 884 0777, email or complete our online enquiry form.

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