Gosport hospital deaths: Officer leading investigation says families’ evidence will be key to bringing murder or manslaughter charges

VITAL evidence buried in medical records will be the key to opening the door to murder or manslaughter charges, the senior police investigator leading the new Gosport hospital probe has said.

Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 7:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 7:18 pm
Assistant chief constable for Kent and Essex Police and serious crime directorate Nick Downing during the press conference. Picture: Sarah Standing (300419-7534)

Assistant chief constable Nick Downing, who is leading a team of nearly 90 officers and staff, said no suspects have been declared yet in the new probe.

But he confirmed his team is looking at homicide offences, including murder and manslaughter.

‘At the moment we are looking at the homicide offences, the full range of homicide offences, we’re also looking at health and safety legislation,’ Mr Downing said at a press conference in Fareham.

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Assistant chief constable for Kent and Essex Police and serious crime directorate Nick Downing during the press conference. Picture: Sarah Standing (300419-7534)

‘But we are open minded for what criminality may have occurred. But predominantly it is the homicide offences that we’re looking at.’

His team will focus for around nine months on interviewing the relatives of the 456 patients who died between 1987-2001.

Mr Downing said proving a causation between the opioids being administered and subsequent deaths will be the work of an expert medical panel.

The panel has not yet been appointed but his team is now putting it together.

Outcomes from this phase of the probe could see no action, no action but with a coroner-led inquiry, or the identification of suspects. It is possible there could be individual suspects as well as organisations, or neither.

‘I think the key bit will be around the experts and how we task the experts if we can’t show the causational link between opioids being administered and the shortening of life then we can’t move forward,’ he said.

Families will be interviewed one by one to see if their evidence turns up more information only they witnessed. He said previous probes had been ‘insufficient’ in capturing what relatives’ stories.

Relatives will be notified within 28 days when they are due to be interviewed.

Mr Downing said: ‘Our investigation is going to look at two elements: The families and gathering their stories because they’re powerful or important.

‘They might have seen some stuff that’s never been captured and heard stuff that’s never been captured.’

The six-month assessment since his team, which is set to be quadrupled from its current 22-strong size, has been focused on medical records and ‘limited stuff from families,’ Mr Downing said.

He said it was not the team’s intention to use officers from Hampshire in the probe.