No criminal charges over patients' deaths

No criminal charges will be brought over the deaths of five patients who were under the care of a mental health trust, police announced today.

Sussex Police launched an exploratory inquiry earlier this year into the deaths of four men and a woman at three units run by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust between September 2008 and March this year.

Today detectives from the force's major crime branch announced that their inquiries had found no evidence of criminal offences.

Police said a detailed timeline of what happened had been established and shared with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who considered whether crimes had been committed.

Inquiries began following the death of Sussex Police Sergeant Richard Bexhell, 49, who was found hanged at the Woodlands unit in Hastings and later died in hospital in August last year.

When John Blair, 40, from Hastings, was found hanged in his room at the same unit on October 19, police decided to look back at other deaths at the trust.

One of the deaths related to 35-year-old Susanna Anley, who is understood to have suffocated herself with a plastic bag in April 2008 at Woodlands.

The other two deaths were those of Michael Stevens, 53, from Lancing, who hanged himself with a belt in his room at the Meadowfield unit in Worthing in September 2008, and an unnamed 27-year-old man at Millview hospital in Hove in March this year.

An inquest into his death last year heard Mr Stevens, a hospital porter, was able to hang himself following a "breakdown in communication" and a failure to implement observation policies.

Inquests into the deaths of the other four patients have yet to be heard.

Today Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Bowles, who led the exploratory inquiry, said: "The public rightly expects us to fully and impartially investigate deaths in public facilities.

"Whether or not an unexpected death is believed to be suspicious, police have a duty to establish the circumstances on behalf of the county coroners and those who have lost loved ones.

"Although this investigation has not found evidence of criminal offences, we will still be providing detailed information to the coroners that will significantly assist the four inquests that are yet to be heard.

"Officers have today spoken with the families of those who died to explain as much as we can, although they understand that we cannot prejudice the future inquests.

"These hearings will take place when dates have been set by the coroners for the areas where the deaths happened.

"The Sussex Partnership NHS Trust - which manages the facilities where the five people died - has assisted us by providing the details required throughout the investigation and has been informed of the outcome today."

Woodlands was closed as a precaution by the trust in October last year to allow an independent review to be carried out.

The trust said that the inquiry found the service to be safe and Woodlands is due to be reopened next month.

Following today's police announcement, Lisa Rodrigues, chief executive at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: "The Crown Prosecution Service and Sussex Police have looked at each of these incidents and concluded that there is no criminal case to answer.

"We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with Sussex Police.

"We will be providing reports to Her Majesty's Coroner and attending the inquests yet to be heard in the usual way.

"We would once again like to repeat our very deep condolences to the families of those who have died."

The trust said that it deals with more than 600,000 contacts a year with people needing support with mental health, learning disability and substance abuse problems.

It added that the rate of deaths in its hospitals was lower than for similar services elsewhere.

In a statement, it said: "Our staff go to tremendous lengths to keep people safe while providing therapeutic care.

"There are always lessons that we can learn from any incident and we always carry out a thorough review.

"We may bring in external experts to advise us, as we did in two of these cases."

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape