Gosport War Memorial Hospital: Four families secure inquests into deaths of loved ones after 'disregard for human life'
FAMILIES campaigning after the deaths of loved ones at Gosport War Memorial Hospital will finally get the inquests they have been pushing for.
In June 2018, an independent inquiry concluded that 456 patients at the hospital were prescribed opioids without appropriate clinical indication.
These patients all died between 1987 and 2001, in what was described as a ‘disregard for human life’.
Only 11 inquests in total were carried out in relation to over 800 death certificates completed by Dr Jane Barton who was found guilty of ‘serious professional misconduct’ in 2010 but was not struck off.
Now, four families have secured inquests into the deaths of Dulcie Middleton, Horace Reuben David Smith, Eva Isabel Page and Clifford Houghton – with hopes that a full Hillsborough-style inquest into all the deaths will soon follow.
Concluding in 2016, the Hillsborough inquest confirmed that 96 football fans were unlawfully killed at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
After an unlawful killing conclusion, the Crown Prosecution Service can look at prosecuting individuals or corporate bodies – and it’s hoped the same could happen here.
Law firm Leigh Day helped the families to get permission for these inquests, and is currently pushing for two further inquests into the deaths of Arthur Denis Brian Cunningham and Gladys Richards.
Dulcie Middleton was admitted to Gosport War Memorial Hospital on May 29, 2001 and died on September 2, despite not being admitted for terminal care.
Nephew David Wilson, 75 from Sarisbury Green, said: ‘This is something that Leigh Day have been fighting to get for some time, and hopefully the news will encourage others to come forward for an inquest too.
‘From day one, what happened in Gosport was a breach of the law, and was covered up by the authorities.
‘I’m greatly relieved by the news and hope that this could bring out the truth of what happened to my aunt.
‘As far as we’re concerned, she wouldn’t have even died in that hospital if the police had been anything but incompetent at the time.’
Gladys Richards’ daughter, Gillian Mackenzie, 88, said she is ‘delighted’ by this major step in securing justice – but concedes that there is still a long way to go.
She said: ‘In one way I’m really pleased for the four families who never had an inquest for their loved ones.
‘But I’m also at the stage where I have to face the fact that I won’t be around by the time it gets to a criminal court. These inquests will take a long time.
‘My mother was unlawfully killed and her death was covered up by doctors, the police and everyone else involved.’
‘Whether it’s an inquest for my mother or someone else’s relative is besides the point now – I want to see justice.’
Gillian added that she will continue to fight until her final breath, and would ‘make a pact with the devil’ if it brought an end to the families’ struggle.
Solicitor Emma Jones said: ‘We welcome the decision to open inquests into these deaths which we hope will be full and fearless investigations. The families have been fighting for years for answers and we are hopeful that the coronial process will provide them with these answers.
‘My clients believe that the only way to achieve a thorough investigation of what happened is to conduct a judge-led Article Two inquest which gives much greater powers to look at the individuals and institutions involved.
‘They hope that by encouraging more families to come forward it will strengthen their arguments for this type of inquest to take place.
‘I believe the coroner will consider further applications for inquests from families who have lost loved ones due to the shameful care provided by Gosport War Memorial Hospital.’
The Article Two in question is from the European Convention of Human Rights, which states that everyone’s right to life is protected by law and cannot legally be deprived.
Ms Jones says she will be meeting with the families next month, in a bid to bring more people on board with their campaign.
Family members have had regular meetings with police officers from Operation Magenta, which has been looking into the deaths after the independent panel report.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Jerome of Operation Magenta said: ‘We have been informed by the Hampshire coroner of his decision to open inquests into the deaths of a small number of people whose deaths feature within the independent police investigation.‘Our investigation remains ongoing and we will continue to keep the coroner updated on our progress.’