It was confirmed yesterday that the Health and Safety Executive are going to prosecute Southern Health for the failings that led to Connor’s death. To paraphrase Norman Lamb: Good, and about bloody time.
Still can’t get my head round why the Crown Prosecution Service did not pursue a corporate manslaughter charge: the inquest jury found that serious management failures at Slade House contributed to Connor’s death, so presumably the resulting breach of Southern’s duty of care towards him was deemed insufficiently ‘gross’. Call me naïve or thick but I can’t see how much grosser it can get, than having systems which allow a clinically vulnerable person, carelessly, in defiance of known diagnoses and of recent events confirming clinical risk, to be put into a situation with a high potentiality of death. Especially given that the risk, and the death, actually eventuated.
However, the Health and Safety Executive seems to have a good track record of holding companies, and their directors and senior managers, to account. More slog for LB’s family, seeing this one through, on top of the wildly inappropriate General Medical Council (GMC) and Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) approaches to involving families in disciplinary proceedings.
I watched the news coverage of the announcement. But as Huw Edwards launched into the introduction: “…Connor Sparrowhawk, who was eighteen….” and the familiar images of LB as a giggling toddler and an ice-cream-eating teenager played over, I had an almost physical sensation of a bit of my mind slipping sideways.
Eighteen. That can’t be right. LB is three years older than E; he was in Year 13 when E was still in Year 10. LB was a young man and E was still a baby-faced, coltish boy, lanky and spindly, with what appeared to be more than the standard complement of knees, elbows and shoulder-blades; still in school uniform, still to sit GCSEs, still to graduate into a ‘business dress’ chain-store suit and Sixth Form, still to choose and sit his A-Levels, still to make decisions about where to go next.
Now, E is an undergraduate. At nearly 20, with a full set of whiskers and (following a recent student-prank-gone-wrong) a No. 1 crop, he looks nearer 30. He’s playing sports three times a week and hitting the gym in between, and even if his sixth-form suit hadn’t developed peculiar pinkish patches after repeated dry-cleanings, he still wouldn’t be able to wear it, as his chest and shoulders have packed on an extra six inches of muscle since he left school. He’s revelling in having left behind the write-a-mark-a-minute constraints of A-levels, in being able to pursue his academic interests and do the research needed to back up his hypotheses, in finding a circle of like-minded mates for study and leisure, in being responsible for his own schedules, meals, laundry, and employment for spending-money. So if E is this mature young man, Connor, surely, is approaching his mid-twenties?
Of course, he isn’t. And it hits me all over again. While LB has been an ongoing presence in so many lives, and while I have continued to think of him as older than, and therefore somehow growing up ahead of, my own son, Connor has in fact stopped. Stayed as he was on that brilliantly sunshiny morning, forever an eighteen-year-old schoolboy, about to visit the Oxford bus company.
It’s not that I don’t know. It’s just that the enormity and awfulness of the realisation seems new and raw, every time. And as I remember to gasp in another breath, and blink away the prickle of tears, the screen is filled with an image of Connor’s mother, talking to the BBC’s Michael Buchanan.
“He should never have died. And I… just miss him so….He’s left an unimaginable hole in our lives.”
Appallingly, Connor is not the only one remaining in the same place. Southern Health is still, still, overclaiming (otherwise known as outright lying) about its actions. “Tonight,” said Huw, “the Trust has apologised again to his family”. However, and to whichever bit, of Connor’s family the Trust apologised, it didn’t include doing so, in words, to Connor’s mother.
If Sloven can’t get that right, after nearly four years, they can’t be trusted on any of the alleged improvements they’ve made, either.
No learning. No honesty. No Trust.
See you in Court, Sloven.