‘It’s heartbreaking’ – Police reveal outcome of patient deaths probe

Melanie Leahy with son Matt Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Melanie Leahy with son Matt Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY - Credit: Archant

Police will take no further action following a major investigation into 25 deaths at an Essex mental health trust, it has emerged.

Matthew Leahy. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Matthew Leahy. Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY - Credit: Archant

Senior officers from Essex Police’s major crime team made the announcement at a two-and-a-half hour meeting attended by relatives of patients.

The force will not be taking any further action against the North Essex Partnership University Trust (NEP), after a large-scale investigation into up to 25 deaths in its care since 2000.

Detectives identified “clear and basic failings”, but found these did not meet the threshold for a charge of corporate manslaughter.

This morning, Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate delivered his conclusion.

‘Clear and basic failings discovered’

Matthew Leahy, who was found dead at the Linden Centre in Essex back in 2012 Picture: SUPPLIED BY FA

Matthew Leahy, who was found dead at the Linden Centre in Essex back in 2012 Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY - Credit: Archant

“This has been a lengthy and complex investigation during which we have liaised with healthcare and criminal justice partners and examined a wealth of information and evidence,” said temporary Det Supt Jennings.

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“Our investigation found a number of areas of concern about the way in which the NEP historically managed the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable adults in the cases we examined during the period falling within the scope of the investigation and involving nine establishments.

“As part of our investigation we identified clear and basic failings which in our opinion should have been easily overcome, these however did not meet the evidential threshold to proceed for a charge of manslaughter.”

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Areas of concern identified by Essex Police included:

• Policies in relation to searching, leave and observations

Temporary Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings, senior investigating officer at the Kent and Es

Temporary Detective Superintendent Stephen Jennings, senior investigating officer at the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate Picture: GEORGINA HINGSTON - Credit: Archant

• Care plans and packages

• Communication between staff and families

• Accessibility of information regarding patients

• The appointment of appropriate staff

The police statement added: “We would like to acknowledge the support, patience and co-operation of all of the families concerned in this investigation.

Matt Leahy with mum Melanie Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Matt Leahy with mum Melanie Picture: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY - Credit: Supplied by family

“We fully understand it has been an extremely difficult time for them and we know our decision will not be the news they wanted to hear.

“But I want to assure them that my team carried out a thorough and extensive investigation and, whilst we have not been able to meet the evidential threshold to bring charges for corporate manslaughter, we will continue to assist our HSE colleagues in their continued investigation into the management of ligature risks.”

A report of Essex Police’s full findings will be made available at the conclusion of that investigation.

‘It’s been a torturous process’ – Mother’s anger and sadness at outcome

Seven patients are believed to have died at the Linden Centre in Chelmsford, where Melanie Leahy’s son Matthew was found dead in November 2012.

“It was a two hour 20 minutes speaking of very upset, angry, emotional families,” she said of last night’s meeting.

“At the moment there’s no accountability to be had anywhere.

“It’s just sickening, that realisation.

She added: “So many people have died but there’s been not one person accountable for any failings.

“There has been no justice for any of our loved ones whatsoever.”

An inquest into her 20-year-old son’s death found he had been subjected to a series of failings and missed opportunities.

Mrs Leahy campaigned for years for the police investigation – having taken her son’s case and those of other families to various watchdogs, ombudsmen, and the Health and Safety Executive.

“It’s been such a torturous process,” she added.

“I feel absolutely deflated, I feel ashamed of every agency that has had any dealings with this whole sorry affair.”

Trust response

EPUT, which merged mental health services in the north and south of the county last spring, did not attend last night’s meeting.

This morning, the trust’s chief executive Sally Morris said: “A police investigation into the deaths of a number of people who were being cared for by the former NEP has now concluded.

“We appreciate this will be a difficult time for those people who sadly lost a loved one.

“Our thoughts are with them and we are here to provide support should they wish.

She added: “NEP ceased to exist as an organisation on 31 March 2017, on 1 April 2017 Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) was formed through a merger of NEP and South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, and took over provision of mental health and community health services.

“EPUT co-operated fully with the police investigation.

“The safety of the people in EPUT’s care has been our priority since day one – we have invested £2.1million in improving the safety of our wards since April 2017 and are planning to spend a further £700,000 in the coming year.

Ms Morris continued: “In April 2018, the CQC carried out a comprehensive inspection of EPUT.

“The inspection report noted that we had improved the safety and experience of the people in our care and rated EPUT as good overall.

“While the police investigation has now concluded, the HSE’s investigation into the care of some patients by the former NEP is ongoing and we will continue to work closely with them.”

What is the investigation and why was it carried out?

Last year, it emerged Essex Police was launching a probe into nine separate establishments – including mental health units – involved in the care of 25 patients since 2000.

The major investigation was launched in January 2017 following further allegations about the death of Mr Leahy.

We exclusively revealed in May last year how “up to 20” deaths were then being investigated, while detectives were in a ‘research phase’ of the probe.

This involved obtaining relevant documents from other public bodies, including the NHS, before preparing a report for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

A police spokesman said: “Our investigation, led by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, began in January 2017.

“During that time our officers carried out detailed enquiries, spoke to a number of individuals and gathered and examined a large amount of material from a variety of sources such as HM Coroner’s Office, EPUT, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the relatives of those patients concerned and the HSE.

“In addition to this work the case was subject to a peer review by the heads of serious and major crime for the eastern region.

They added: “We have liaised with specialist lawyers at the CPS throughout this investigation.

“In addition, we instructed an independent barrister to review our investigation and our subsequent decision and they also agreed with our finding.”

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