Care home briefing 154 – Home guilty of corporate manslaughter but hospital prosecution collapses
We have previously commented on corporate manslaughter prosecutions following the enactment of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act. There is clearly a risk of these arising in the health sector.
A landmark prosecution of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust collapsed at the end of January 2016 when the judge concluded that there was no credible evidence that the Trust had been grossly negligent or that it had failed to ensure that two doctors were adequately qualified and had the necessary experience to treat patients such as the deceased in this case. The case had arisen following the death of Frances Cappuccini who died having undergone surgery in the period immediately post-delivery.
However, the Act has now been successfully used to prosecute a Nottingham care home provider. Sherwood Rise Limited, the operator of Autumn Grange care home, was fined £300,000 for corporate manslaughter following the death of Ivy Atkin. Ms Atkin was found dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from a significant pressure sore. The evidence at trial suggested that care home records had been fabricated and staff alleged shortcuts in the care regime.
In addition, there were two individual prosecutions: one for manslaughter (leading to a three years and two months sentence of imprisonment) and one for breaches of health and safety legislation (leading to a one year prison sentence suspended for two years).
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which came into force in 2008, was supposed to make prosecution for corporate manslaughter easier in appropriate cases. As yet there have been relatively few successful prosecutions. Nevertheless prosecutors will clearly consider the possibility of this where untoward incidents lead to deaths in the health or adult social care sectors. Accordingly, it is important to ensure that all organisations providing care in these sectors have good procedures in place, implementation is monitored, and health and safety is taken seriously right up to board level.
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This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.