Northern Ireland

Police urged to probe hyponatraemia 'perjury claims'

Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Claire Roberts and Conor Mitchell
Image caption Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Claire Roberts and Conor Mitchell. Lucy Crawford's family chose not to release a photograph

A solicitor for the family of one of the children whose deaths were the focus of the hyponatraemia inquiry wants police to "investigate the allegations of perjury".

The inquiry found that four children's deaths were avoidable.

The damning report, published on Wednesday, was heavily critical of the "self-regulating and unmonitored" health service.

Des Doherty told BBC News NI that the "legal process has to continue".

On Wednesday the Police Service of Northern Ireland said it would "carefully assess" the contents of the report before deciding what action needs to be taken.

The inquiry was set up in 2004 to investigate the deaths of Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Raychel Ferguson, Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell.

The inquiry chairman, Mr Justice O'Hara, was scathing of how the families were treated in the aftermath of the deaths and also of the evidence given to the inquiry by medical professionals.

He said that "doctors and managers cannot be relied on to do the right thing at the right time" and that they had to put the public interest before their own reputation.

Mr Doherty, who represents the family of Raychel Ferguson, said "after the emotion of yesterday, there has to be mature reflection" .

He urged the police, Attorney General and wider legal profession to deal with the findings of the inquiry.

He said: "The inquiry chairman made it clear that the coroner was misled.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMr Justice O'Hara calls on medical professionals to put the public interest first.

"There is no other way to deal with matters now other than for the police to examine the report and investigate the allegations of perjury and preventing the course of justice."

The Belfast, Southern and Western health trusts said they "unreservedly apologise" to the five families involved.

Hyponatraemia is a medical condition that occurs when there is a shortage of sodium in the bloodstream.

Mr Justice O'Hara found that:

  • while investigating the death of Adam Strain, the inquiry had been met with "defensiveness and deceit" and that "information was withheld" about what happened to Adam in the operating theatre
  • there "was a cover up" in the death of Claire Roberts, whose death was not referred to the coroner immediately to "avoid scrutiny"
  • poor care was "deliberately concealed" in the death of Lucy Crawford
  • there was a "reluctance among clinicians to openly acknowledge failings" in the death of Raychel Ferguson
  • in the death of Conor Mitchell, there was a "potentially dangerous variation in care and treatment afforded to young people at Craigavon Hospital"

In total, the inquiry made 96 recommendations including the establishment of a duty of candour on medical professionals "to tell patients and their families about major failures in care and to give a full and honest explanation".

Related Topics

More on this story