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Shrewsbury maternity trust could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter

Shaun Lintern
West Mercia Police has said it has considered a "range of criminal charges" against Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust: Alamy

Police are considering bringing corporate manslaughter charges against the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, The Independent can reveal.

Detectives from West Mercia Police’s major investigations unit are liaising with the NHS and the ongoing independent investigation into maternity failings at the trust to establish evidence and facts about alleged poor care.

An interim report into the trust, leaked to The Independent, revealed ​a catalogue of clinical failures which listed the deaths of dozens of babies and mothers as well as more than 50 children who were left permanently disabled.

The number of cases being examined by the inquiry team has now risen to more than 600.

In the leaked report midwifery expert and chair of the investigation Donna Ockenden said: “Failure to investigate and therefore failure to learn have been present in almost all of the cases.”

Now it has emerged detectives have discussed with families the potential to bring corporate manslaughter charges against the trust because of these repeated failures to learn, which may have meant deaths happened unnecessarily.

Detective Inspector Mark Bellamy, from the force’s major investigation unit, told Rhiannon Davies, the mother of Kate Stanton-Davies, who died as a result of poor care at the Trust in March 2009, that police could consider corporate manslaughter.

In an email to Ms Davies, seen by The Independent, he said: “We did discuss the failure of the trust to learn from events within their organisation. This was with a view to considering the offence of corporate manslaughter.

“The key points being here, is that it applies to offences post 2008 and any prosecution must show beyond reasonable doubt that there was a gross breach of the duty of care that led to the death of a person.”

Corporate manslaughter is defined in law as applying to organisations who cause a death as a result of a gross breach of its duty of care by the way its activities are managed or organised.

To bring a prosecution, police would need to show a failure at senior management level and that those failures were gross and caused the death.

Ms Davies told The Independent: “The wider public can now see the truth – which is, it has not made changes. It has not rectified its failing maternity service.

“Therefore, the narrative has to change; the numbers, the shocking cases that this leaked report mentions ... it’s no longer enough to say ‘lessons must be learned’. History has proven that will never be the case with this trust ... therefore, the only outcome that I will be satisfied with now is a successful prosecution of the hospital trust for corporate manslaughter. West Mercia Police needs to go in today and seize all records and the CPS need to support them towards a prosecution.”

Detective Superintendent Carl Moore told The Independent: “A range of criminal charges have been discussed in the broader sense, however, at this stage no specific charges have been considered.”

He added: “West Mercia Police is liaising with the independent inquiry into maternity services under Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust and we are awaiting the findings of the independent inquiry before any criminal proceedings are considered.

“This is in line with the protocol in health care settings and we are in regular contact with the inquiry to ensure we fulfil our obligations to carry out an investigation where there is a requirement for us to do so.”

The Independent has approached the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust for comment.

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