Eye expert Honey Rose found guilty of manslaughter through gross negligence after failing to spot eye abnormalities in Ipswich boy

Honey Rose arriving at Ipswich Crown Court.

Honey Rose arriving at Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

An eye expert has been convicted of manslaughter through gross negligence after failing to spot serious abnormalities in the eyes of an Ipswich schoolboy who later died.

Vinnie Barker

Vinnie Barker - Credit: Archant

Honey Rose, 35, a mother-of-three from London, was working as a locum at Boots opticians in Upper Brook Street Ipswich when she failed to spot the abnormalities in the eyes of Vinnie Barker during an examination in February 2012.

An inquest found that Vinnie, of Henley Road, Ipswich, died of hydrocephalus in July 2012.

She was convicted at Ipswich Crown Court this morning.

A statement issued on behalf of his parents Ian and Joanne Barker and his four siblings, said: “The outcome of this case does not change our life sentence; we will never be able to fully accept that our special little boy is never coming home.

Ipswich Crown Court.

Ipswich Crown Court.

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“The void left in our lives will never heal and the ripple effect to those around us is immense. As parents the distress of witnessing your child’s life from start to end in just 8 short years is excruciatingly hard and nonsensical.

“The decision of a jury or judge cannot bring Vinnie back or undo the devastation of his death. A guilty verdict would never make us winners, our loss is simply too great.

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“Our main concern has always been the accountability of those we entrust with our own health and the health of those we love.

“It is the responsibility of individuals and the organisation they work for to perform their duties to the expected levels of good practice without exception.

Vinnie Barker

Vinnie Barker - Credit: Archant

“The actions of professionals or their failure to act to a standard at which they are required to perform should not go without consequence.

“We have a duty to our son to ensure that his precious and wonderful time with us is celebrated. Once every formality is dealt with, as a family we can then begin to move forward and build something positive in his memory.

“Our intention is not to damage the reputation of optometrists, but actually to raise awareness and promote the health benefits and value of good optometry. Because, we believe without doubt that if our son had received the duty of care he was owed on February 15 2012, he would still be with us today.

“Our thoughts as always are with those like us who have experienced the death of a child and the overpowering and overwhelming whirlpool of grief that your life becomes. We know only too well time does not heal the pain. Time just provides a way to begin anticipate and manage the raw emotions that are everlasting.”

Suffolk Police Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Tonya Antonis said: “This has been a complex enquiry that initially came into police as the sudden unexplained death of a child. In these circumstances we start a full investigation to understand why that child has died and if we believe there are criminal acts involved we aim to put the facts before a court to bring those responsible to justice.

“During the course of this enquiry we discovered that, in our view, there was a criminal case to answer, leading to Honey Rose being charged.

“However this case was about much more than justice for Vinnie’s family. Whatever the outcome of the trial it was never going to bring Vinnie back and it was never their aim to see Honey Rose imprisoned, they only want to raise awareness of the issue so that something positive can come from his death.

“If this case makes the optometry profession reflect on their practices and review their policies to prevent it happening to anyone again, or encourages other parents to take their children to get their eyes tested with the knowledge that any serious issues would be picked up, then it will be worthwhile.

“Vinnie’s family have been amazing throughout this process. We have been working with them for four years and all they have wanted is for this not to happen to another family. I would like to thank them for their support and pay tribute to their courage.”

Optometrists’ organisation is ‘extremely disappointed’ in verdict

Rose is a member of the Association of Optometrists (AOP), which acts like a union for its members, offering support, advice and representation. Rose is one of more than 16,000 members from the British optical profession.

A statement from the AOP released today said: “This is a tragic case which is devastating for all concerned and our sympathies go to the Barker family at this time.

“We are naturally extremely disappointed for our member, Ms Rose, in the outcome of the case.

“The case, a criminal one involving an optometrist on clinical matters, is the first of its kind in the UK. There are millions of sight tests undertaken in the UK each year.

“Optometrists adhere to strict standards of practice set out by the regulatory body, the General Optical Council (GOC).

“We are aware that Ms Rose is currently before the GOC in a Fitness to Practise hearing and as a result we are unable to comment further at this time.”

The GOC are the regulator for the optical profession and can ban people from practicing through “fitness to practice” hearings, similar to the General Medical Council which regulates doctors.

A statement from the GOC, released today, said: “Following the conviction of Honey Rose earlier today we offer our deepest sympathies to the family of Vincent Barker.

“Honey Rose remains suspended from practising under a GOC interim suspension order. Until our fitness to practise process is complete, we are not able to comment on the case.”

A date for the hearing is likely to be set after sentencing, in around four weeks. To find out more about the GOC fitness to practice process, go to www.optical.org/en/news_publications/press_kit/media-statements-and-briefings/how-the-fitness-to-practise-process-works.cfm

Boots Opticians’ MD offers ‘deepest condolences’ to Vinnie’s family

Rose was working as a locum at the Boots Opticians in Upper Brook Street, Ipswich, when she saw Vinnie for an eye check in 2012.

The national health store chain, which has around 700 opticians around the country, today released a statement on the guilty verdict.

Ben Fletcher, managing director at Boots Opticians, said: “We offer our deepest condolences to Vincent Barker’s family. Our thoughts throughout this difficult period remain with the family following these tragic events.”

What is hydrocephalus?

Vinnie died from a condition known as hydrocephalus, which is a build up of the protective fluid around the brain.

The fluid is called cerebrospinal fluid and helps protect the brain, remove waste products and supply the brain with nutrients.

In normal circumstances a pint of the fluid is created each day, with old fluid absorbed into the blood. When this process is interrupted the build up of fluid places pressure on the brain causing a range of symptoms.

Hydrocephalus can usually be treated using a piece of equipment known as a shunt. This is a thin tube that is surgically implanted in the brain and drains away the excess fluid. If left untreated hydrocephalus can be fatal.

The court heard that Rose failed to act on evidence of a swelling of the optic disc at the back of the eye due to raised pressure in the skull – known as a bilateral papilloedema.

This is a symptom of hydrocephalus and had it been spotted Vinnie would have been given an urgent referral for specialist treatment, which the prosecution said would have saved his life.

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