A doctor who failed to give evidence at an inquest into the death of one of his patients has pleaded guilty.

The breakthrough is thought to be a ‘legal first’

Duncan Lawrence now faces jailtime after admitting that he failed to provide evidence at an inquiry into the death of Tooting girl Sophie Bennett, 19.

Charles Shelton, Prosecutor said: "The defendant made a number of recommendations as to how the care home should operate.

"The coroner considered therefore he was an important part of the inquest."

In 2016, Mr Lawrence managed Lancaster Lodge – a psychiatric care home in Richmond, where Ms Bennett resided until her death.

The teenager suffered from bipolar affective disorder, social anxiety disorder and atypical autism was found hanged in a bathroom – a year after being admitted.

Ms Bennett died two days after being admitted to Kingston Hospital.

Mr Lawrence was warned that he now faces a custodial sentence after he admitted his failings on August 16, at Wimbledon Magistrates Court.

In February, an inquest jury discovered that neglect contributed to her death and mistakes made at the facility was ‘grossly inadequate.’

Lawrence was notified to attend the inquest into Ms Bennett’s death in October 2018 but failed to show up after telling the court he had ‘extenuating circumstances’ and was the sole carer for his parents.

Instead Mr Lawrence provided written statements which were handed to the coroner.

After the death of both of his parents Mr Lawrence admitted that he was ‘100 per cent guilty,’ and that he ‘wrongly assumed’ that the written notes would be satisfactory enough.

Despite being the clinical lead at the home and understood by staff to be a medical doctor, Ms Bennett's inquest heard Lawrence did not own any legitimate medical doctorates – instead Mr Lawrence had obtained a certificate from a "degree mill" in Denmark.

Mr Lawrence was also the interim manager when Care Quality Commission (CQC) staff visited the care home for an emergency inspection - two months before Ms Bennett's death, were the home was rated as being inadequate in a number of areas.

Wynne Price-Rees, CQC Inspector believed that Mr Lawrence ‘disengaged’ and lacked basic knowledge of essential care documents at the ‘disorderly’ facility.

Magistrate John Soones said: "In view of your work at the care home you were expected to give important information to the coroner.

"Irrespective of your personal circumstances you failed to do that properly despite the coroner making all efforts to help you.

"This goes to the heart of the inquest process ... to be able to get all the facts leading up to the death of Sophie Bennett.

"There's a real prospect of custody.

We urge you to seek proper legal advice."

Lawrence admitted withholding evidence/documentation in relation to a coroner's inquest contrary to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

The charity Inquest - which is working with Ms Bennett's family, are strongly feel that the ‘unprecedented case’ is the first time someone has faced criminal charges for failing to provide evidence to a coroner.

Lawrence is due to be sentenced on Monday at the same court.