Today after a nine-day hearing at Ipswich Crown Court, optometrist, Ms. Honey Rose (above) was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter of Vincent – “Vinnie” – Barker, a boy, who died in July 2012 after fluid built up in his brain. Five months earlier he attended an eye examination performed by Ms Rose. She will be sentenced in a month’s time. Her bail was continued.
Below is a link to a report by Emily McCormick on the trial by Optometry Today the online periodical of the Association of Optometrists of 2 Woodbridge Street London EC1R 0DG: https://www.aop.org.uk/ot/professional-support/clinical-and-regulatory/2016/07/15/optom-found-guilty-of-gross-negligence-manslaughter
We quote from Emily McCormick’s report; “During day six of the trial (11 July) when Ms Rose was presented with a retinal image of the left eye of Vinnie from 2012 she said: “[It] is not the image that I saw on 15 February 2012. That is because, if I did see the image on 15 February, I would have referred him straight away to the hospital because the disc is not clear at all – the point where the vessels start from, the surrounding circular area, there is no demarcation. The optical disc is completely swollen and blurry in this case, and the vessels are all distorted. And there is no cup-to-disc ratio either. That could never be described by me as 0.5.””
British Gazette comment: The jury deliberated for two hours and found Ms Rose guilty of causing the death of this Vincent – “Vinnie” – Barker. Clearly there are two possibilities here: That Ms Rose was telling the truth when she said she had not seen the image that was presented to her in court and that somehow she had been presented with another image OR that was the image Ms Rose was presented with and for some reason Ms Rose ignored or did not notice that which was amiss; and that in the investigation that followed she decided to lie about her error.
Whilst this is a rare case by the very circumstances – a rare condition and a rare oversight, Ms Rose was faced with two courses of action:
Admission would have meant inevitable prosecution and loss of her career. It would have meant pleading guilty at the earliest stage. In such circumstances the sentence would have had a significant degree of leniency as it would have been clear that this was not a deliberate act but a dreadful mistake. Added to this we will assume that the defendant would show remorse for her actions. There would be a strong possibility that the sentence would have been non-custodial – albeit with the likelihood of a suspended sentence. A significant community service order was also in the cards. The consequences for Ms Rose would of course be not only loss of employment at Boots but the loss of her career as an optometrist.
Denial and inter-alia a plea of Not Guilty held out the prospect of an acquittal. Whilst the loss of her position at Boots was highly likely, there would have been the ability to find employment elsewhere – as an optometrist. Pleading Not Guilty also held out the prospect of conviction. Pursuing the defence she did there is an inherent lack of remorse because Ms Rose would be claiming ignorance of the condition that lead to the boy’s death. This inevitably results in a much heavier sentence and in Ms Rose’s case more than likely custodial – unless her barrister is on especially good form in a month’s time.
The choice was of course Ms Rose’s. She clearly calculated that by adopting the denial strategy and gambling the potential gain that was the of chance of acquittal was worth the risk worth potential loss that was a heavier and custodial sentence.
It comes down to this: never gamble with that which you cannot comfortably afford to loose and if you do accept the loss. So our advice to Ms Rose?
You gambled and you lost. Take it on the chin. There is a strong likelihood that you will not have to serve the standard 50% of the sentence but will be released after serving a quarter on an electronic tag. You may think that this is liberty. If so you will have an unpleasant surprise. It is restrictive.