Trial collapses but nurses now face professional standards investigation

Bolton Crown Court
Bolton Crown Court

Wigan nursing staff accused of perverting the course of justice following the death of a young woman at Leigh Infirmary will face a professional standards investigation after their trial dramatically collapsed.

Laura Taylor, 27, Lesley Osbaldestin, 43, Maria Anderson, 59, and 29-year-old Bethany Clare, have been on trial at Bolton Crown Court over the past week after denying perverting the course of justice.

The case disintegrated on day six, partially because the Crown Prosecution Service failed to disclose all evidence to the defence before the trial began.

The court heard how the prosecution failed to share information about an email which had allegedly been written by one of the defendants at the hospital, despite the fact that none of them were in work that day.

Taylor of Ince Green Lane, Osbaldestin of Moxton Way in Ashton, Anderson of Whimbrel Road in Tyldesley and Clare of Pimbo Way in St Helens were accused of giving false statements about the death of Stephanie Mullineux, 23, from Liverpool, who died in February 2016.

It was alleged that the young woman was left alone for a period of time despite being found unconscious in a locked toilet cubicle with blood on her head and a pair of pyjamas around her neck.

Her life support machine was turned off the following day.

Taylor, a nurse on the Cavendish Unit where Ms Mullineux was a mental health inpatient, was also standing trial accused of wilful neglect of the 23-year-old.

The allegations came to light 11 months after Ms Mullineux’s death when a colleague, Deborah Howard, 47, of Bexhill Drive, admitted to a new manager that she had lied at the time.

However during the trial, it became apparent that there were discrepancies between Howard’s statement and the evidence she gave as a witness.

A CPS spokesman said: “We have a duty to keep cases under continuous review, including during the course of a trial as new evidence emerges.

“As a result of new evidence which came to light during this trial the CPS reviewed the case and decided there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction against these defendants.

“Deborah Howard pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice at a previous hearing and awaits sentence.”

Judge Richard Gioserano instructed the jury to find all four defendants not guilty.

North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the mental health services at Leigh Infirmary, said that a “full internal investigation” will now take place to try and establish what happened in the lead up to Ms Mullineux’s death.

Gail Briers, chief nurse and deputy chief executive, which runs the mental health services at Leigh Infirmary, said: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Stephanie’s family for their loss. I appreciate it must be incredibly difficult to sit through a court case on top of losing someone you love. And particularly to have it discontinued partway through.

“Having referred the case to the police as soon as the allegations were made, we have been unable to carry out a full internal investigation while the justice system was in progress. Now the court process has concluded, we will be working with Stephanie’s family to help answer their questions about her death.”