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Statement: court judgement in relation to Natasha Abrahart's death

20 May 2022

The family of Natasha Abrahart, a 20-year-old Physics student who very sadly took her own life in April 2018, brought a civil action against the University of Bristol. A judgement, handed down today (Friday 20 May) by His Honour Judge Ralton at Bristol County Court, found the University was not negligent, but deemed the adjustments made by the University for Natasha’s assessment were insufficient. This was despite the absence of a disability summary.

Our whole university community has been deeply affected by Natasha's tragic death and we would once again like to extend our sympathies to her friends and family.

Like all universities, schools and colleges, we are deeply concerned by the increase of mental health issues amongst our young people nationally. We do our very best to support any student who is struggling with their mental health and have a wide range of services available.

We believe staff in the School of Physics worked incredibly hard and diligently to support Natasha during her time with us, and it was due to their efforts that she was receiving specialist mental health support from the NHS. Our staff's efforts also included offering alternative options for her assessments to alleviate the anxiety she faced about presenting her laboratory findings to her peers. We are very grateful to them for their endeavours on Natasha's behalf and for their unwavering commitment to our students.

Alongside the support available, we have introduced an opt-in policy to alert a nominated contact when we have serious concerns about a student's wellbeing and more robust procedures to assess students' fitness to study. However, it is important that students receive appropriate specialist care under the NHS should they need it.

We cannot replicate the NHS but are committed to working with the NHS and other partners to improve services and ensure we are collectively providing the best possible support for students.

Given the significant impact this decision could have on how all higher education providers support their students, we are reviewing the decision carefully, including whether to appeal. In light of that review, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the judgment at the present time.

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