News Professional Discipline 15th Jul 2016

Jonathan Rees QC Prosecutes Optometrist Honey Rose found Guilty of Manslaughter by Gross Negligence

In what is thought to be the first prosecution of an optometrist for gross negligence manslaughter, Jonathan Rees QC secured the conviction of Honey Rose for the manslaughter of Vincent Barker, aged eight.

Vincent had gone to his local Boots the Optician in Ipswich for a routine eye test, unbeknown to his family, he was suffering from hydrocephalus, a life-threatening condition. The only detectable sign of this condition was papilloedema – swollen optic discs.

The case centred around Rose’s failure to detect swollen optic discs and her failure to refer Vincent for further investigation. Ultimately, Vincent’s death was caused by a build up of fluid in his brain, which increased pressure in his skull. Rose had said the examination had been somewhat difficult because he had closed his eyes to the light and looked away during the test.

It was the prosecution’s case that the defendant breached her duty of care to Vincent by failing to examine his optic discs in the course of the examination. Rose, 35, said in evidence that she had a reasonable excuse for not looking at Vincent’s eyes which included the assertion that he was slightly photo-phobic.

However, the jury rejected her evidence and concluded that her conduct fell so far below what could be expected of a reasonably competent optometrist that it was criminal. One expert called by the prosecution described the conduct as “rock bottom”. Honey Rose will be sentenced at a later date.

Jonathan Rees QC was instructed by Hilary Reeve, Special Crime Division of the CPS.

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