Kent Police will not pursue a criminal investigation over the death of baby Harry Richford and a number of ‘avoidable’ baby deaths at East Kent Hospitals Trust.
The investigation was understood to centre on the possibility of opening a criminal investigation and bringing charges related to corporate manslaughter and/or gross negligence manslaughter.
Seven day old Harry died at Margate’s QEQM Hospital in 2017. An inquest, fought for by Harry’s parents Sarah and Tom and grandfather Derek, into the circumstances heard of the “panic” after Harry was born by emergency Caesarean section during which his heartbeat kept dropping. Harry died seven days after his delivery from a condition caused by a lack of oxygen. An independent report said he might have survived had there not been a delay in resuscitation at his birth that caused irreversible brain damage.
The Care Quality Commission prosecuted East Kent Hospitals Trust in relation to the care of Harry and his mum Sarah. In June this year the Trust, which had pleaded guilty, was fined £761,170 – inclusive of costs – for failing to discharge its duty to provide safe care and treatment, resulting in avoidable harm with the death of seven day old Harry Richford and sub standard care of his mum Sarah at QEQM Hospital in 2017.
Kent Police confirmed in June that officers were carrying out a scoping exercise and officers were understood to have been in contact with those on the Kirkup inquiry which was initially launched in February 2020.
Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Fotheringham, Head of Major Crime at Kent Police, said: “Since August 2020 Kent Police has been carrying out an assessment of information received in relation to the standard of maternity care provided at a hospital in east Kent.
‘After careful consideration and following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we took the decision that a criminal investigation would not be undertaken at this time as there is no realistic prospect of conviction against any individual or organisation based on the evidence currently available.
‘Any further information received at any time in the future will be assessed as appropriate.’
In a statement, Harry’s family said: “We are disappointed that Kent Police, in collaboration with the CPS special crime unit in London, have not been able to take forward a charge of corporate manslaughter for Harry at this time. They have assured us that they will keep an open mind on this matter, and any other appropriate charges as and when new evidence is brought before them.
“We believe that the Kirkup inquiry and investigation may allow them to revisit a raft of charges on behalf of harmed babies in east Kent in due course. Only when senior leaders are properly held to account, will there be lasting change.”
The Kirkup inquiry was launched in response to the concerning number of avoidable baby deaths at East Kent Hospitals Trust.
NHS England and NHS Improvement commissioned Dr Bill Kirkup to carry out an independent review into the circumstances of the maternity deaths at QEQM and William Harvey hospitals.
The move came alongside a report by the Health and Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) which found recurrent patient safety risks at the Trust maternity sites at QEQM and William Harvey Hospital.
Since Harry’s inquest a number of families have come forward over the preventable deaths of their babies.
The Independent Investigation aims to complete its Terms of Reference research by Autumn 2022. It is understood some 200 families have come forward.