‘The retired doctor, at the centre of the Gosport War Memorial Hospital scandal, could face murder charges over the deaths of hundreds of patients who were needlessly given powerful opiate painkillers, the police have said.
A total of 456 people had their lives cut short and another 200 were “probably” given drugs without medical justification between 1987 and 2001.
An official inquiry last year concluded that Dr Jane Barton, 71, who worked at the hospital between 1988 and 2000, had presided over an “institutionalised regime” which had a flagrant “disregard for human life”.
A damning report revealed how patients who were viewed as a “nuisance” were given opiates via syringe drivers, often resulting in their deaths within days.
Three previous police investigations have failed to bring anyone to justice, but yesterday senior officers vowed to get to the bottom of the scandal and determine whether the prescribing of the opiates led directly to patient deaths.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing of Kent Police, the force overseeing the independent investigation, said if causation was proved and suspects identified then “all homicide charges including murder” were on the table.
He said a team of up to 90 officers would focus on 456 deaths between 1987 -2001, but said the first phase of the inquiry, which would involve taking statements from relatives could take up to nine months.
It could see Dr Barton and other senior figures at the hospital face a range of charges including murder, manslaughter and corporate manslaughter.
In 2010 the General Medical Council found Dr Barton guilty of serious professional misconduct for failing in her care of 12 patients between 1996 and 1999, but she was not struck off and later retired to enjoy her hobby of wildlife photography.
The families of those who died welcomed the fresh police investigation but expressed concern that it might be too late to get justice.
Gillian Mackenzie, 85, the first person to go to the police about Gosport after the death of her mother Gladys Richards in 1998, said justice would not be served until a criminal trial was held.’