Essex NHS Trust - No Case For Corporate Manslaughter

13 November 2018, 16:18 | Updated: 13 November 2018, 16:21

Essex Police

Essex Police say they won't be charging the North Essex Partnership University Trust (now known as the Essex Partnership University Trust or EPUT) with corporate manslaughter, following the deaths of a number of patients.

Following an investigation led by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, into the management of the trust, the force have taken the decision that a case for corporate manslaughter has not been made out and therefore they won't be taking further action.

During the enquiry, which started in January 2017, officers carried out detailed enquiries, spoke to a number of individuals and gathered and examined a large amount of material from a variety of sources such as HM Coroner's Office, EPUT, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the relatives of those patients concerned and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), to work out whether the trust had committed criminal offences of corporate manslaughter. As the Corporate Manslaughter Act only came into effect in 2007 and was enacted in April 2008, it meant the force was only able to consider deaths after April 2008. They did explore the circumstances of a wider number of deaths to help with their investigation though.

The enquiry found clear and basic failings in the care of those vulnerable adults whose cases were considered as part of the investigation. But there wasn't enough evidence to suggest a consistent pattern of senior management failings caused the death of the patients.

There was also insufficient evidence to indicate that the way in which the Trust was managed, amounted to a gross breach of the duty of care owed to patients.

Senior investigating officer Temporary Det Supt Stephen Jennings, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This has been a lengthy and complex investigation during which we have liaised with healthcare and criminal justice partners and examined a wealth of information and evidence.

"Our investigation found a number of areas of concern about the way in which the North Essex Partnership University Trust historically managed the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable adults in the cases we examined during the period falling within the scope of the investigation and involving nine establishments.

"As part of our investigation we identified clear and basic failings which in our opinion should have been easily overcome, these however did not meet the evidential threshold to proceed for a charge of manslaughter.  "

Areas of concern identified by Essex Police include: policies in relation to searching, leave and observations; care plans and packages; communication between staff and families; the accessibility of information regarding patients; the appointment of appropriate staff.

Temporary Det Supt Jennings added: "We would like to acknowledge the support, patience and co-operation of all of the families concerned in this investigation.

"We fully understand it has been an extremely difficult time for them and we know our decision will not be the news they wanted to hear.

"But I want to assure them that my team carried out a thorough and extensive investigation and, whilst we have not been able to meet the evidential threshold to bring charges for corporate manslaughter, we will continue to assist our HSE colleagues in their continued investigation into the management of ligature risks."

An independent barrister has also reviewed the police investigation. as well as the force's subsequent decision, and have agreed with the findings.

The force says a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation will now take  priority and that they will ensure all evidence and documentation obtained during their investigation continues to be made available to the HSE.