Gosport hospital deaths: Police launch new inquiry

Ian Sandford
Image caption Ian Sandford, whose mother died in Gosport hospital, attended a meeting between police and relatives

A new criminal investigation is to take place into the deaths of hundreds of patients who were given “dangerous” levels of painkillers at a hospital.

An inquiry found 456 patients died after being given opiate drugs at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1987 and 2001.

A review has since been carried out by Kent and Essex Police to assess if there was “sufficient new evidence”.

Relatives have been told a “full investigation” will begin.

Three previous investigations into 92 of the deaths by Hampshire Constabulary resulted in no charges being brought.

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Media captionTimeline: Concerns were first raised about the treatment of patients in 1998

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing, head of serious crime at Kent and Essex Police, met relatives at a meeting in Fareham.

Speaking at a press conference afterwards, he promised a “thorough and independent” investigation with a range of offences, including murder, to be considered.

He said police would not be interviewing hospital staff but meeting families individually to collect statements on their relatives’ experiences of the hospital.

He said a new medical expert panel would also be set up to “prove or disprove the causational link between opioids being administered and deaths”.

Image caption Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing is leading the latest police investigation

He said: “We need to look at what is new or different to submit to the CPS. I am satisfied that there is new and different material for us to consider.

“Our investigation does not involve suspects. If we prove the causational link we will move to the next phase.”

The investigation is likely to take nine months.

ACC Downing added: “When you spend time with the families, you hear the ordeal they’ve gone through… you can’t help but feel the pain and suffering. As you listen your heart potentially just breaks.

“I absolutely understand there is mistrust. I walk into that room and it’s palpable, that mistrust in my organisation and me.”

Image caption Bridget Reeves has been campaigning for justice for relatives of those who died in the hospital

In a statement read on behalf of the families, Bridget Reeves, whose 88-year-old grandmother Elsie Devine died in the hospital in 1999, said there had a been a “cover-up culture” surrounding previous investigations.

She said: “We challenged and we challenged when we saw the corrupt evidence that so-called experts had submitted but the CPS slammed the door shut in our faces.

“This immoral disaster was perpetuated by a club culture … officials protected each other.

“Our loved ones were killed and our lives destroyed.”

Ian Sandford, whose mother also died in Gosport, added: “Frustration doesn’t even come near. They should have sorted this out a long time ago.

“All I want to hear is a good result.”

Image caption Peta Birmingham’s grandmother Gladys Richards died in Gosport

Peta Birmingham, whose grandmother Gladys Richards died, said her family were “as pleased as we can be” about the new investigation.

She said: “After all this time you can understand why the families are distrustful of the process, having already endured three police investigations. We hope it’ll be different and it will reach its rightful conclusion.”

Gosport MP and health minister Caroline Dinenage said she hoped families would “get access to the truth”.

She said: “I know that some families would prefer a much faster conclusion. I also have many constituents who’ve worked at the War Memorial Hospital past and present, with great professionalism and integrity.

“That’s why it’s important that the investigation is done with the utmost care and thoroughness.”

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dr Jane Barton was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2010 but no prosecutions were brought

The Gosport Independent Review Panel report, published in June 2018, found there was a “disregard for human life” at the hospital.

It also found an “institutionalised regime” of prescribing and administering amounts of opiate medication that were not clinically justified.

The report said the quality of previous police investigations had been “consistently poor”.

It found whistleblowers and families were ignored as they attempted to raise concerns about the administration of medication on the wards, which was overseen by Dr Jane Barton.

Dr Barton retired after being found guilty by a medical panel of failings in her care of 12 patients at Gosport between 1996 and 1999.

In a statement last year, Dr Barton said she was a “hard-working doctor” who was “doing her best” for patients in a “very inadequately resourced” part of the NHS.


Lives have been ruined – contaminated blood victims

bloodImage copyright PA

Victims of the contaminated blood scandal have been telling a public inquiry how their lives have been ruined.

The hearing is looking at how thousands of people were infected with hepatitis C and HIV from contaminated blood they were given in the 1970s and 80s.

One man said he was devastated when he was told he had only a year to live after being diagnosed with HIV.

Another said he was so sick that plans started to be made for his funeral.

Inquiry chairman Sir Brian Langstaff praised the bravery of those giving evidence.

He warned that the accounts being put forward were “harrowing”, “moving” and “chilling”.

He said there would be “more to come” during the two-year inquiry, but pledged to make sure the victims got a chance to tell their stories.

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Media captionMartin Beard was told he was HIV positive at the age of 17

The scandal has been called the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.

About 5,000 people with haemophilia, a genetic condition that prevents blood from clotting properly, were infected when they were given blood products to help their blood clot. More than 2,000 are already thought to have died.

Thousands more may have been exposed through blood transfusions after an operation or childbirth.

The victims’ stories

Image caption Derek Martindale was diagnosed with HIV in 1985

Hundreds of victims and their families are expected to give evidence during the inquiry.

One of the first people to take the stand was Derek Martindale, who has haemophilia.

He said he was 23 when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and was given a year to live.

Mr Martindale said he had been told not to tell anyone, even his family.

He added: “When you’re young you’re invincible, when you’re 23 you’re generally fit, but then you’re told you have 12 months to live – it’s very hard to comprehend, so there was the fear.

“There was no future, the likelihood of getting married and having children was very unlikely.”

Mr Martindale said his brother Richard, who also had haemophilia, was diagnosed with HIV too.

He said his greatest regret was not being able to support his brother in the months before he died in 1990.

Another victim who gave evidence was Perry Evans, 57, from Winchester.

He was diagnosed with mild haemophilia as a child and regularly received blood products.

He was told he had HIV in 1985 and has suffered with health problems including hepatitis C, chest infections, pneumonia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

At one point he was so ill in hospital that plans started to be made for his funeral.

“I cried when I came out because I didn’t think I would come out,” he said.

Carole Anne Hill found out in January 2017 that she had hepatitis C, infected as a result of a blood transfusion she was given in 1987.

She had menorrhagia at that time, suffering from heavy periods.

Asked how she heard about her diagnosis, she told the inquiry: “By letter, which was half opened and not sealed properly.”

“I was cross about that,” she added.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Su Gorman’s husband, Steve Dymond, died in December

A number of people have also been speaking out ahead of the start of the hearing.

Su Gorman said the main thing victims and their families wanted from the inquiry was “justice” and people held to account.

Her husband, Steve Dymond, died aged 62 on 23 December last year of organ failure – ultimately caused by the medicine he was given as a young man.

Su said: “I want to see justice.

“Steve’s dying words were he wanted them to repent. I promised him they would – and that’s a promise I intend to keep.”

What is the scandal about?

About 5,000 people with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders are believed to have been infected with HIV and hepatitis viruses over a period of more than 20 years.

This was because they were injected with blood products used to help their blood clot.

It was a treatment introduced in the early 1970s. Before then, patients faced lengthy stays in hospital to have transfusions, even for minor injuries.

Britain was struggling to keep up with demand for the treatment – known as clotting agent Factor VIII – and so supplies were imported from the US.

But much of the human blood plasma used to make the product came from donors such as prison inmates, who sold their blood.

Image copyright Factor VIII/Marc marnie
Image caption Factor VIII was imported from the US in the 1970s and 1980s

The blood products were made by pooling plasma from up to 40,000 donors and concentrating it.

People who had blood transfusions after an operation or childbirth were also exposed to the contaminated blood – as many as 30,000 people may have been infected.

By the mid-1980s, the products started to be heat-treated to kill the viruses.

But questions remain about how much was known before this and why some contaminated products remained in circulation.

Screening of blood products began in 1991. And by the late 1990s, synthetic treatments for haemophilia became available, removing the infection risk.

Why has it taken so long to have an inquiry?

This is the first UK-wide public inquiry that can compel witnesses to testify.

It comes after decades of campaigning by victims, who claim the risks were never explained and the scandal was subsequently covered up.

The government has been strongly criticised for dragging its heels.

There have been previous inquiries. One was led by Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell and was privately funded.

It held no official status and was unable to compel witnesses to testify or require the disclosure of documents.

Meanwhile, the Penrose Inquiry, a seven-year investigation launched by the government in Scotland, was criticised as a whitewash when it was published in 2015.

Greater Manchester Mayor and former health secretary Andy Burnham has repeatedly called for a probe into what happened.

Mr Burnham claimed in the House of Commons in 2017 that a “criminal cover-up on an industrial scale” had taken place.

The government announced there would be an inquiry only after it faced a possible defeat in a vote on an emergency motion.

This public inquiry into the scandal was first announced in the summer of 2017.

More money for victims

Ahead of the public hearings, the government announced more financial support for people in England affected by the tragedy, to a total of £75m from £46m, amid complaints other parts of the UK were more generous.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The contaminated blood scandal was a tragedy that should never have happened and has caused unimaginable pain and hurt for victims and their families for decades.

“I know this will be a difficult time for victims and their families – but today will begin a journey which will be dedicated to getting to the truth of what happened and in delivering justice to everyone involved.”

But Jason Evans, founder of the campaign group Factor VIII, said the fund was still essentially a “begging bowl” and the increase, about £900 for each victim, represented “virtually no change”.


Brexit: Labour supports a referendum with caveats

People's Vote supportersImage copyright Getty Images

Labour’s governing body has agreed to support a further referendum on Brexit under certain circumstances.

The National Executive Committee met to decide the wording of its manifesto for May’s European elections.

It rejected the idea of campaigning for a referendum under all circumstances – as supported by deputy leader Tom Watson and many Labour Party members.

But the party will demand a public vote if it cannot get changes to the government’s deal or an election.

Labour is “the only party which represents both people who supported Leave and Remain”, a spokesperson said.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) oversees the overall direction of the party and is made up of representatives including shadow cabinet members, MPs, councillors and trade unions.

A Labour source said: “The NEC agreed the manifesto which will be fully in line with Labour’s existing policy to support Labour’s alternative plan and if we can’t get the necessary changes to the government’s deal, or a general election, to back the option of a public vote.”

A number of pro-referendum Labour MPs have reacted positively to the decision – although some fear it may not go far enough.

Wes Streeting tweeted that the NEC had “made the right call and confirmed that a public vote will be in our manifesto for the European elections”. Lloyd Russell-Moyle said the commitment was “not as strong” as he would have liked, but a week ago he had feared there would not be one at all.

But fellow MP Bridget Phillipson said Labour had “done the bare minimum needed and I can only hope it will be enough to secure the support of all those millions of our voters demanding the final say on Brexit”.

Conference policy

The UK will have to take part in European Parliamentary elections on 23 May unless a Brexit deal is accepted by MPs before then.

Labour agreed a policy at its last conference that if Parliament voted down the government’s withdrawal deal with the EU – which it has effectively done three times – or talks ended in no-deal, there should be a general election.

But if it could not force one, conference agreed that the party “must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”.

Since then, though, Labour has entered into cross-party talks with the Conservatives to see if they can reach a consensus on how to get a Brexit deal through Parliament so that Britain can leave.

Many Labour members wanted the party to make its agreement to any deal conditional on it being put to a public vote – what Labour calls a “confirmatory ballot”.

Labour have not yet made clear what their proposed referendum would be on, but a party briefing paper to MPs published earlier this year said it would need to have “a credible Leave option and Remain” on the ballot paper.

Where is Labour now?

On the surface it doesn’t look like Labour’s position has changed – but it has a little bit.

Tom Watson, along with some trade unions and some party members, wanted a full-throated commitment to a referendum under all circumstances. What they have ended up with instead is a compromise or a fudge. Labour will call for a referendum if the Conservatives don’t make changes to their Brexit deal.

Some pro-referendum MPs aren’t too disappointed because they believe the Conservatives won’t move far enough and that leaves the door open to a referendum in the end anyway.

Others, though, are disappointed because they think this is a way of avoiding a clear commitment in the run-up to the European elections.

In truth, it puts the ball back into the Tories’ court when it comes to those cross-party Brexit talks.

Jeremy Corbyn is saying to Theresa May “if you can compromise with us, we can hold back the tide of demands in our own party for a referendum.”

That’s the bargain he’s offering.

Speaking ahead of the NEC’s decision, Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, said “the context has changed” since the 2018 party conference and Labour should now throw its full support behind a second referendum “to heal the divide in the country”.

But shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said it would be a change in Labour’s policy, which is to “try to deliver on what people voted for” in the 2016 referendum.

The latest talks between the government and Labour on Monday were described as “positive” and “productive” by the PM’s de facto deputy David Lidington.

Labour’s position on Brexit

June 2017 – Labour’s general election manifesto accepts referendum result

28 September 2018 – Labour agrees if a general election cannot be achieved it “must support all options… including campaigning for a public vote”

November 2018 – Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says Labour will “inevitably” back a second referendum if unable to secure general election

16 January 2019 – 71 Labour MPs say they support a public vote

6 February 2019 – Mr Corbyn writes a letter to Mrs May seeking five changes to her Brexit policy with no mention of a “People’s Vote”

25 February 2019 – Labour says it will back a public vote if its proposed Brexit deal is rejected

14 March 2019 – Labour orders its MPs to abstain on an amendment calling for a second referendum

27 March 2019 – The party instructs its MPs to support Margaret Beckett’s amendment which calls for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal

30 April 2019 – NEC agrees that the European election manifesto will commit to a further referendum under certain circumstances


Drone owners to be charged annual fee under new proposals

Drones in the skyImage copyright Getty Images

Every drone and model aircraft owner in the UK could be charged £16.50 a year under plans by the aviation regulator.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is consulting on introducing a licence fee to cover the costs of operating the new drone registration scheme.

From November, drone owners would have to register their details on a database and drone flyers would complete a free online safety test.

But a drone membership organisation claimed the charge was “far too high”.

The plans would affect anyone who owns a drone that weighs more than 250 grams (8oz).

Only those aged 18 would be able to register as the official drone owner. There would be no fee for “remote pilots” – those who fly the drones but are not registered owners.

The CAA has launched a consultation on the proposals, with a final decision expected by the regulator in July.

The number of drone users in the UK is unknown, but the CAA estimates 170,000 people will register.

Image copyright Getty Images

New EU rules will mean each member state will have to hold a national register of drone users from next year.

A similar registration scheme in France is free, in the US costs $5 (£3.84) and in Ireland costs €5 (£4.31). But the CAA says these schemes are part, or wholly, subsidised by the taxpayer.

The government has provided funding for the development costs of the new drone registration scheme, but the CAA said it would have to recover the expense of running, maintaining and updating it.

The regulator said it was keeping the charge “as low as possible” and that it may increase or decrease in future years, depending on the number who register.

But the FVP UK Association, which represents 4,000 flyers, said it “strongly opposes” the charge, which it said was “far too high”.

“Criminals aren’t going to register, so the safe and compliant people are the ones listed on the database,” the group’s chief executive, Simon Dale, said.

He added that the group would be calling on members to write to their MPs, the aviation minister and the CAA to oppose the plans.

‘Fee will deter people’

Carys Kaiser, a photographer from the Peak District who runs the Drone Lass blog, said the fee risked discouraging people from taking up the hobby.

“From a female perspective and an education point of view, drones are a brilliant tool for getting young women, girls and boys into STEM subjects,” she said.

She welcomed the idea of a registration scheme, but said the CAA should focus on providing better guidance for drone operators.

She said: “The drone industry as a whole has always said that we need a registration process and an education programme that says ‘this is where you can fly’.

“{But} when you read the rules online it’s difficult to interpret.”

Image copyright Carys Kaiser
Image caption Carys Kaiser said the fee risked discouraging people from taking up the hobby

Drone enthusiast Paul Jaggers, from Twickenham in west London, believes the cost of the licence is “extremely overpriced”.

The 33-year-old, who runs a club in which members race around an indoor course, said the cost could put people off flying drones.

“If anything this fee will deter people. I think they are trying to make it not so popular because of the commercial opportunities.

“That air space is so valuable for the commercial drones, whether that’s delivery, agriculture, or security, and it will be important for policing and any of the emergency services.

“By charging unjustifiable pricing they’re trying to suppress it because otherwise it’ll be chaos.”

But Gemma Alcock, whose company SkyBound Rescuer advises emergency services on how they can best use drones for search and rescue operations and other forms of emergency response, welcomed the CAA’s proposals.

“I think operator registration is vital for accountability, to hopefully deter drone operators from misuse.

“I understand and appreciate that in order for the CAA to develop and maintain this registration service, a fee from operators is needed and £16.50 is – in my eyes – a reasonable amount. I think it’s a positive step forward.”

Under the CAA’s plans, a single owner would be able to register multiple drones.

Four of the largest drone associations, which represent 40,000 users between them, are understood to be exploring whether they are able to act as the registered operator for all of their members’ drones and model aircraft.

The FVP UK Association says the move could help prevent people from the quitting the hobby.

“This would seem to meet the government’s requirements and it would give the advantage of increasing the number of insured flyers, too, as all of our members are covered under our public liability insurance,” the group said.

How other licence fees compare

  • Fishing licence: £30 (trout and coarse) to £82 (salmon and sea trout) per annum
  • Driving licence: 10-year renewal charge, £14 (first provisional licence, £34)
  • Passport: £75.50 every 10 years
  • Light aircraft pilot licence initial issue: £161
  • Shotgun licence: Five-year renewal charge £49 (grant payment, £80)
  • Other firearms licence: Grant payment £88 and five-year renewal charge of £62

The Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (Arpas UK), which represents the drone industry, welcomed the online safety tests for flyers and said it would consult members before responding to the proposals.

The proposals do not affect the CAA’s existing charges for commercial operation permits.

A public consultation on the proposals closes on 7 June.


Roger Curry: Man jailed for Hereford mystery man plot

Roger Curry in hospital
Image caption A BBC Panorama investigation revealed Mr Curry’s identity and that his home was in Los Angeles

A man who plotted to dump a vulnerable American pensioner in England so he could be treated for free on the NHS has been jailed.

Roger Curry, who had dementia, was discovered in a Hereford bus station car park on 5 November 2015.

Worcester Crown Court was told Simon Hayes was part of the plot to “abandon [Mr Curry] so he could receive care from local health care providers”.

Hayes, 53, claimed he had found Mr Curry “face down” in a country lane.

Mr Curry, who is in his 70s, was found without any identification, but later traced to Los Angeles after an international campaign for information.

Simon Davis QC, prosecuting, said Hayes, of Henlade, Somerset, had told police a “pack of lies” which led them on a “wild goose chase”.

However, his motivations for getting involved in the plot remain unclear.

The court heard Mr Curry was cared for in a residential home for eight months – at a cost to the NHS of up to £20,000 – before being flown back to the United States in July 2016.

Mr Davis said Hayes had exchanged a series of texts and calls with “best mate” Kevin Curry, the victim’s son.

Kevin Curry flew with his mother and father to London Gatwick in November 2015, but later left without his father.

Fake military uniform

Mr Davis said it “clearly” been planned to “dump” Mr Curry so he could receive care from local health care providers.

Hayes, in a fake military uniform and putting on an American accent, took Mr Curry to Hereford bus station, close to the city’s hospital, the court heard.

He told a nurse and paramedics he had found Mr Curry but could not give any contact details because he was “working with the SAS” at their nearby camp.

While appealing for information, police suspected Mr Curry had been deliberately abandoned.

After he was able to provide his name, they tracked down Kevin Curry in California, but he claimed nobody called Roger lived at his address.

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Simon Hayes admitted perverting the course of justice in March

However, for reasons unknown, Hayes subsequently called West Mercia Police, identifying himself as the man who handed in Mr Curry.

But he again lied, claiming he and a “Canadian Army serviceman” had found Mr Curry, that he lived in Los Angeles, and at the time had been “attending a course” at the base, the court heard.

Police spoke to his father Ken, who Hayes claimed he had been visiting in Taunton. Mr Hayes confirmed his son knew Roger and Kevin Curry.

Hayes was arrested and in March admitted perverting the course of justice and a separate case of fraud, in relation to a false character reference.

He was jailed for two-and-a-half years earlier.

Enormous waste of resources

Mr Davis said Mr Curry’s son was under investigation in the US for elder abuse, fraud and kidnapping.

Kevin Curry previously told BBC’s Panorama his father had become unwell on a trip to the UK and he had left him with a friend to take him to hospital.

Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins QC said Hayes’ false information caused “an enormous waste of police and public resources”.

“I cannot find any case remotely similar to the facts of this case, curiously because there appears to be no apparent benefit to the defendant,” he said.

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Jersey Reds: Tom Williams and Greg Dyer sign for 2019-20

Tom Williams’ older brother, Lloyd, has 28 caps for Wales

Jersey Reds have signed Cardiff Blues full-back Tom Williams and fly-half Greg Dyer for the 2019-20 campaign.

Wales sevens international Williams, 28, rejoined Blues last year after three years at Pro14 rivals Scarlets.

“I believe his experience and ability as a player will make him a valuable asset,” said Reds boss Harvey Biljon.

New Zealander Dyer, 24, can also play at full-back and will join from Spanish side Valladolid RAC after the end-of-season play-offs.

“Greg has made his mark in both New Zealand and Spain, and now has the chance to come into a full-time professional environment and take his game to the next level,” Biljon said.

Jersey – who finished fourth in the Championship this season – have now made nine new signings for next term.