Optometrist who failed to spot eight-year-old patient's fatal condition avoids jail

Optometrist Honey Rose failed to recognise signs of fluid on the brain, a condition which cost eight-year-old Vincent Barker his life

Rachael Pells@rachaelpells
Monday 29 August 2016 14:48
Vincent Barker, known as 'Vinnie', died five months after he was taken to have a routine eye test at Boots the Opticians
Vincent Barker, known as 'Vinnie', died five months after he was taken to have a routine eye test at Boots the Opticians

A health specialist who failed to spot a life-threatening eye condition in a boy who then died has been given a two-year suspended sentence.

Honey Rose, a 35-year-old optometrist from Newham, east London, was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after eight-year-old Vincent Barker died from a build-up of fluid to his brain.

Ms Rose had had performed a routine eye test on him five months earlier and said she had “done her best” for the child.

But the jury heard there were “obvious abnormalities” indicating swollen optic discs in both of Vinnie’s eyes, which she should have picked up on during the examination.

During the trial, Rose told the court she had conducted all the required tests during Vincent’s eye examination at the Ipswich branch of Boots in February 2012.

She had failed to look at retinal photographs taken or examine the back of Vincent’s eyes, Ipswich crown court heard, an indicator of underlying health problems that “any competent optometrist” would have recognised

It was noted that Vincent’s death could have been prevented if she had “done her job properly”.

At her sentencing, Judge Jeremy Stuart-Smith said that her breach of duty was the first case of its kind.

He told Rose: “You simply departed from your normal practice in a way that was completely untypical for you, a one-off, for no good reason.”

He added that there was “nothing in (Vincent’s) general presentation that should have rung particular alarm bells for you”.

Rose had tried to “cover-up” her mistake when she found out Vincent had died, it was reported, by claiming he had not co-operated and had been hesitant to look at the camera’s light.

She was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and given a 24-month supervision order.

A letter from the Association of Optometrists said there had been an increase in practitioners' concerns about the way they were doing their job and warned that that the case “had devastating consequences for all involved.”

The College of Optometrists also said they hoped that the sentencing would not put off patients from having their eyes checked, amid warnings that Rose’s case could encourage a culture of fear.

A spokesman said: “The conviction of Honey Rose is unprecedented; she is the first optometrist in the UK to face charges, and found to be guilty, of gross negligence manslaughter.

“Optometrists play an important role safeguarding the nation’s eye health. We hope this conviction and sentencing will not have an impact on the public’s trust in optometrists and those that should continue to have regular sight tests.”

A written statement from Vincent’s mother Joanne Barker said: “The knowledge our loss should have been prevented and Vinnie should have been saved is intolerable to live with.”

Detective Superintendent Tonya Antonis, of Suffolk Police, 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.

“What they wanted was some accountability by the profession and to ensure this doesn't happen to anybody else.”