Jury retires in paramedic trial

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The Independent Online

The jury in the trial of a paramedic accused of lying to police and his bosses after he failed to resuscitate a 30-stone man he had been called out to treat retired today to consider its verdict.

Karl Harris, 45, is alleged to have told his less-experienced colleague, Ben Stokes, 35, there was "no point" in trying to resuscitate Barry Baker after they were called to his home in Brighton, East Sussex, in the early hours of the morning.

The 59-year-old, who lived alone, phoned 999 after experiencing breathing difficulties at 4.14am on November 29 2008 and died after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest.

Jurors at Lewes Crown Court heard a recording of the emergency call, in which Mr Baker's laboured, heavy breathing could be heard, before Harris and Mr Stokes entered the house and spoke to him six minutes later.

Minutes later a loud thump was audible, which they were told was the sound of Mr Baker falling to the ground.

However they were told that Harris later claimed that Mr Baker had already collapsed when they got there.

During his defence, the father-of-two told jurors it would have been "physically impossible" to resuscitate Mr Baker due to his size and all the clutter that surrounded him where he lay.

Harris, a former soldier who served in Northern Ireland with the Parachute Regiment, said he "honestly believed he was dead".

He added that when he told police Mr Baker had already collapsed when they arrived at the house, he did not make it clear that Mr Stokes entered the house before him and so may have witnessed the fall.

Jurors heard that Mr Baker had lived alone in Braybon Avenue since the death of his parents in the mid-1970s. He lived a "reclusive" lifestyle, rarely inviting friends to the house and over the years it had fallen into a state of disrepair.

His weight had gone up from around 20 stone in September 2007 to 30 stone by the time of his death, which was caused by his inactivity and thrombosis of the legs.

Harris, of Tophill Close, Portslade, was suspended from his role at South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust following Mr Baker's death.

He denies a charge of perverting the course of justice.

No charges were brought against trainee technician Mr Stokes but the ambulance trust placed him on restricted practice following the incident.

Jurors were sent home for the evening and will continue to deliberate their verdict from 2pm tomorrow.