Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust Cleared of Manslaughter

A major NHS manslaughter case has collapsed after a judge ruled that there was no legitimate case to answer.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS trust had been accused of corporate manslaughter in connection with the death of schoolteacher Frances Cappuccini.

This had been the first prosecution of a health body since the new law was introduced in 2008.

Errol Cornish, 68, a locum consultant anaesthetist, was accused of gross negligence manslaughter.

Cappuccini was anaesthetised following a Caesarian section at Tunbridge Wells hospital at Pembury in Kent, but unfortunately never awoke from the procedure.

Another doctor, Dr Nadeem Azeez, had managed to avoid prosecution by returning to his native Pakistan.

Azeez and Cornish failed in the “elementary task of protecting Cappuccini’s airway” contributing to her passing away, according to evidence that was presented to the court.

Yet the trial judge, Mr Justice Coulson, instructed the jury at Inner London crown court to acquit both defendants.

Although the judge acknowledged that “there is no question that Frances Cappuccini should not have died at the trust hospital on 9th October,” legal technicalities seem to have blighted the case.

Flaws in the prosecution case, including evidence that indicated that some of the actions of the defendant had been “about as far from a gross negligence manslaughter case as it is possible to be” caused the case to collapse.

A spokeswoman for the CPS acknowledged that the correct verdict have been arrived at.

“We appreciate that Mrs Cappuccini’s family will be understandably upset by this outcome, but we respect the decision made by the judge that there was insufficient evidence to continue with the trial.”

The defendant was naturally relieved by the verdict of the court, and took time to commend the family of the deceased for their conduct.

“I would like to pay tribute to the family of Mrs Cappuccini for the restraint and dignity they have displayed throughout this trial.”

The NHS trust was also adamant that the trial should never have taken place, also taking time to sympathise with the feelings of the family of the deceased.

“The allegation of corporate manslaughter has been consistently denied by the trust and now also comprehensively rejected by the court. The trust regrets that the Crown Prosecution Service saw fit to pursue the charge in the first place, given the additional stress this will have caused all involved.”

The NHS statement continued:

“Patient safety remains of paramount importance and it has been shown during the trial that a number of compassionate and highly skilled clinical teams were involved in caring for Frances. The trust has, however, recognised from the start that there were aspects of Frances’s care that fell short of the standards that the trust would expect and they have already apologised to the family for this.”

 

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