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The tabloids (aka ‘red tops’) often criticise our Judges for lenient or excessive sentences.
In R v Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which relates to the preventable deaths of Connor Sparrowhawk and Teresa Colvin, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith had the difficult task of balancing the gravity of the offences with the effect of a heavy fine on the treatment of future patients. In your scribe’s opinion, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith’s sentencing was commendable, well-balanced and (in the context of the evidence presented to him¹) exactly right. He concluded:
The end result is reached by reference to my overall conclusion on totality grounds that the aggregate fine to be paid by the Trust is one of £2,000,000. In my judgment a just and proportionate outcome that marks the seriousness of the Trust’s offending, the terrible consequences of that offending, and the other material factors that I have indicated is as follows:
a. On the TJ Charge, the fine will be £950,000.
b. On the Connor Charge, the fine will be £1,050,000.
c. The Trust will pay the Prosecution’s costs in the sum that has been agreed.”
The Judge’ full sentencing remarks are available here→.
Whilst those who inhabit Pollyland and favour Crown Immunity for the NHS will no doubt have a good whinge at the level of the fine, other bereaved families, surviving ‘victims’ of Southern Health and campaigning activists, who have witnessed the dreadful events of the last six years, will realise that £2,000,000 (plus costs) is entirely justifiable.
£2,000,000 pales into insignificance compared with the vast sums of money wasted, for example: on ineffectual leadership training; legal fees in defending the indefensible; and Consultants, whose recommendations the Board generally ignored anyway.
In the context of the Trust’s expenditure during the same four years, the £2,000,000 fine is peanuts. Yes, it could have been spent on patient care but so could the £5,000,000+ Percy spent with an acquaintance on clearly ineffectual leadership training for current and future bureaucrats. Read ‘The Value of Life’ here→ and ‘The talented Mr Martin and viral impact’ here→
It’s a shame that the culpable CEO (Katrina Percy) did not have to stand in Court during sentencing; could not have spent a few weeks as a guest of Her Majesty; could not have been set to work for a year in a ‘Hi Viz’ jacket cleaning Southern Health’s loos; or perhaps all three!
However, even if this could have been done legally, it would be very difficult with this printed in the Trust’s 2016/17 Annual Report (page 57):
“Payments for loss of office – Information Subject to Audit” [Information about other officials redacted)
Quite why Julie Dawes was minded to put her signature to nonsense such as, “Katrina was fit to lead” (I know!) is a complete mystery: she knew exactly how Percy had failed. HM Treasury must have misplaced their collective brain in considering it an appropriate use of public funds. ‘The Daily Telegraph’ described it as, “Scandalous Largesse.”
¹ We have some reservations about statements made to the Judge by Counsel and about the Trust’s press statement but these are for another day. We do not wish to detract from the wisdom of Mr Justice Stuart-Smith.