Priest loses first attempt to prosecute Bland doctor

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The Independent Online
MAGISTRATES in Bingley, West Yorkshire, decided in secret yesterday not to issue a private summons for murder against the doctor who led the medical team that withdrew treatment from Tony Bland, allowing the Hillsborough football disaster victim to die.

Father James Morrow, 58, from Braemar, Aberdeenshire, a Roman Catholic priest and 'pro-life' campaigner, is attempting to have Dr Jim Howe prosecuted for the death of Mr Bland, 22, who had been in a persistent vegetative state since the tragedy in April 1989. A ruling in the House of Lords allowed the medical team at Airedale General Hospital in Keighley to withdraw feeding tubes from Mr Bland, who died on 3 March.

Yesterday, Fr Morrow arrived at the magistrates' court hoping to pursue the summons, but after a hearing lasting 50 minutes he was told he could not do so. The magistrates told him in private that they had read the Lords ruling and in the light of that had decided not to issue a summons.

Fr Morrow said after the hearing: 'It is up to me now to pursue the matter in the next court. Dr Howe is the culprit and we must have a conviction on this matter. I will do everything in the power of the private citizen.' He said he had acted 'in an attempt to prevent future comatose, disabled and elderly patients from sharing the fate of Tony Bland'. He said he would lodge the same application at Keighley County Court in the Liverpool fan's home town.

In an unusual move, the magistrates decided not to allow the public or the press to attend any part of yesterday's hearing. Neither would they discuss the reasons for such privacy or for not reading their judgment in public. It was relayed in a brief statement fixed to the court building after the hearing.

Dr Howe shrugged off the threat of a private prosecution. 'This was discussed during the hearing at the House of Lords and it was said that if a case was brought the Attorney General would quash it, and that has been confirmed by lawyers. I am not in the least concerned,' he said.