Paramedic jailed for a year
3 March 2010, 17:51
A paramedic was jailed for 12 months today after being found guilty of telling a series of lies when he failed to resuscitate a 30-stone man.
A PARAMEDIC who lied to police to cover up his failure to help a dying patient was yesterday jailed for a year.
Judge Guy Anthony told Karl Harris he "struck at the root" of people's trust in the ambulance service when he told a web of lies to the authorities to cover his tracks.
As he was led down to the cells at Lewes Crown Court, Harris, 45, turned to his former boss, who was sitting in court in his green uniform, and said: "I hope you're satisfied now."
A jury of six men and six women found Harris, from Portslade, West Sussex, guilty of perverting the course of justice after less than five hours of deliberation.
Judge Anthony told him he must serve at least six months behind bars before he would be considered for parole.
He said: "Actions of this sort that strike at the root of the trust that people have in the ambulance service can only be dealt with by a custodial sentence.
"Members of the public have come to rely on the emergency services and in particular, and with good reason, on the ambulance service.
"They are entitled to expect that they will be treated properly.
"In the case of those who do not survive, their family and friends are entitled to know that everything was done properly that could have been done and if something should have been done that wasn't, it should at least come to light
so lessons can be learned."
After the verdict, James Pavey, senior operations manager for the Brighton area of the South East Coast Ambulance Services NHS Trust, offered his condolences to Mr Baker's family and said: "Our highest priority is to provide a safe,
responsive and high quality service to our patients.
"The standard of care that has been reported during this trial is not reflective of the dedication and commitment of our staff who come to work each day to care for the patients that need our help."
Harris, who has now been sacked after working for the service since 1996, told his inexperienced crewmate Ben Stokes "not to bother" trying to save disabled Barry Baker at his Brighton home after he called 999 with breathing difficulties in November 2008.
When Mr Stokes, a trainee technician on his first shift with Harris, questioned the decision, he told him: "Just say he was dead when we got here."
But he had no idea his words were being recorded through Mr Baker's home phone line which was still connected to the ambulance service HQ.
The jury heard a recording of that conversation, in which Harris could clearly be heard addressing the patient, asking if he wanted to go out to the ambulance, before an audible thud as Mr Baker collapsed.
Harris claimed he was speaking through a crack in the door and had not seen or heard Mr Baker.
He told the court he then did all he could to try to get Mr Baker flat on his back for resuscitation, but said his size and the horribly cluttered state of his house made it impossible.
However Mr Stokes, 35, who was disciplined but not charged over the incident, told the jury Harris stopped him going to Mr Baker's aid, saying: "There's no point. He has died. I have seen this before."
Harris then tried to cover up his failure to follow procedures by lying to his boss, to police and in his official report into the incident.
Judge Anthony told Harris he accepted that his actions had not affected Mr Baker's chances of survival because medical evidence had shown he was beyond saving.
But he told him: "You were not to know that at the time when you decided to tell lies about the state of Mr Baker when you arrived at his house."
He told him police and coroners needed to know the truth after any sudden death.He said: "It is important, for obvious reasons, that the truth is made available to those authorities and is not in some way kept from them,. You made
a clear and deliberate decision to lie about it. "Quite why will be known for certain only be you."
Gillian Jones, defending, told the judge Harris, a married father of two young children, had done a "silly and a stupid thing" but asked the judge to take into account that he had shouldered full responsibility rather than trying to push it on his junior crewmate, Mr Stokes.
She said he had brought shame on himself and the ambulance service.
Jobcentre worker Mr Baker, who lived alone, had let his home get in such a chaotic state he was too ashamed to allow visitors.
His weight had ballooned from 20st to 30st in the year before his death due to thrombosis in his legs. He died of a heart attack caused by an embolism.