London: A 35-year-old Indian-origin optometrist in the UK won an appeal against her two-year suspended jail sentence for failing to spot a life-threatening condition on a little boy that resulted in his death.
Honey Rose had performed a routine eye test on eight-year-old Vincent Barker in February 2012. She failed to spot the life-threatening condition that led to the boy’s death after five months.
Rose had denied charges of gross negligence amounting to manslaughter but was found guilty after a trial at Ipswich Crown Court in London last year.
The UK Court of Appeal admitted her plea and quashed her sentence for gross negligence manslaughter.
The three-member panel ruled that there had been a “serious breach of duty” by Rose but that it did not amount to the crime of gross negligence manslaughter which resulted in her suspended sentence, which refers to a deferred custodial sentence on strict conditions.
“This decision does not, in any sense, condone the negligence that the jury must have found to have been established at a high level in relation to the way that Ms Rose examined Vincent and failed to identify the defect which ultimately led to his death,” said Judge Brian Leveson, one of the three Court of Appeal judges.
“That serious breach of duty is a matter for her regulator; in the context of this case, however, it does not constitute the crime of gross negligence manslaughter,” he concluded.
During her trial last year, the prosecution had claimed that Rose’s conduct had been so far below the expected standard that it was “criminal”.
The jury was told there were “obvious abnormalities” in both of Vinnie’s eyes visible during the examination. A build-up of fluid on the brain increased pressure in Vinnie’s skull and ultimately led to his death.
Rose had claimed her examination of Vinnie was tricky because he had closed his eyes to the light and looked away during the test.
Judge Jeremy Stuart-Smith had ruled in August 2016 that it was the first case of its type and ordered Rose to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and gave her a 24-month supervision order.
The judge told the mother-of-three: “You simply departed from your normal practice in a way that was completely untypical for you, a one-off, for no good reason.”
Detective Superintendent Tonya Antonis, of Suffolk Police, had said the sentence was “proportionate in the circumstances”.
“It was never the Barker family’s intention that Honey Rose should go to prison,” she said. The victim’s mother, Joanne Barker, said the family had struggled to accept Vincent’s death and the impact on his siblings had been “immeasurable”.
“The knowledge our loss should have been prevented and Vinnie should have been saved is intolerable to live with,” she said in a statement.