Smashing it

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We did it. A historic judgement by Mr Justice Stuart-Smith on Monday morning which involved a £2m fine for Sloven Health. LB and TJ Colvin were treated with the respect they deserve. Justice was served. We had been prepared that the sum of money was not as important as the Judge’s comments would carry more weight. As it was Mr Justice smashed both. He carefully read out a judgement so drenched in sense and fairness it was extraordinary to listen to. In a court again packed with JusticeforLB campaigners including several members of My Life My Choice.

The sensitivity and commitment of the Judge, Bernard, the HSE team and the media who attended (many of whom have followed the campaign over the years) were also extraordinary. Kindnesses that will stay with us.

Our statement about the prosecution can be read here.

Michael Buchanan’s news film with beautiful video clips of LB is here.

A few thoughts and outstanding questions

We were surprised (and pleased) to hear Jeremy Corbyn raise LB, TJ and the campaign in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. May also praised the efforts of the families. This is good but serious questions remain about the failure of the various regulators/bodies to act on what the Judge described as ‘the dark years‘ of Sloven. Jeremy Hunt is captured in the Commons looking slightly uncomfortable. So he should. It’s not the job of bereaved families to ‘uncover the serious systemic problems‘ in health and social care.

Mr Justice describes ‘very grave concern‘ that endemic failures were allowed to arise at all and to persist for so long. I mean why was this? Do senior people leave sense on a middle rung of the ladder to success? Are critical scrutiny and self reflection dirty words in senior circles? Is the culture so dire that no one can offer challenge to unspeakable actions?

Many of the mountains of email exchanges we have through Freedom of Information requests include abysmal statements and the complete absence of challenge to these statements by numerous people. Norman Lamb stands out as someone who stood firm, recognised how wrong it was and acted. And made sure action happened.

We have in the Justice shed a long standing plan to hold an exhibition plastering this documentation around a cavernous space to allow people to wander around and read the levels of shite and what families are forced to endure. What is said and not said. Replicated in too many other cases.

Looking back across the five years there was a wilful refusal by NHS Improvement, NHS England, the CQC and Jeremy Hunt to act. One example. Two referrals (yes two) of Katrina Percy to the CQC’s Fitness to Practice panel in 2015 and 2016.

1. Mike Richards sent  a ‘fuck off she’s fine’ letter months later (the referral had got lost). 2. After chasing we were told the fitness panel would wait for NHS Improvement’s trouble-shooting Chair Tim Smart’s exec board capability review. Smart bafflingly concluded the board were all fine. Percy again exonerated.

NHS Improvement and the rest continued to slumber.

Point 4 of the judgment states: ‘When the systemic problems were finally recognised, a welcome realism entered the Trust’s appreciation of what happened‘. This interpretation glosses over the crucial point that it was the replacement of ‘pay off Percy’ which enabled the (slow) recognition of failings. She and her turgid, complacent and arrogant board have got off scot free.

Unlike the MPTS panel which decided to include the ‘difficult field of learning disability’ as two mitigating factors in deciding to suspend Valerie Murphy, Mr Justice states ‘the fact that the Trust’s breaches were most likely to affect vulnerable patients is an aggravating factor‘. Of course it is. That he simply saw LB and TJ as human is at the heart of his narrative and judgement. And what has been largely lacking from the broader NHS related responses.

The sentence is here. The biggest Health and Safety related prosecution fine in the history of the NHS.

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There has been some unsurprising meithering on social media about this fine. Yesterday we found out that Sloven quietly sold the Ridgeway Centre in High Wycombe last November. This was one of the spoils they took with them having lost the Oxford contract because they were so shite. A sale that netted them a tawdry sum of £2.3m. Dosh taken from Oxfordshire provision.

It’s a shame the £2m can’t be channelled  into providing groundbreaking provision for LB’s peers some of whom continue to flounder without appropriate support in county.  ‘A TJ and Connor centre of life, love, fun and brilliance’. But that’s out of our hands.

Mr Justice was spot on with his ‘just and proportionate outcome‘.


We’re pretty much done now. We did what we set out to do and whilst none of it will bring back our beautiful boy we collectively did a bloody good job. As Mark Neary reflected yesterday we may have changed the way campaigns are run.

One of the central features of the campaign has been the extraordinary live tweeting of the various hearings by George Julian. She is now looking into a more sustainable way of doing this for other families. Making dirty practices by public sector funded and instructed counsels visible in real time is priceless. If you can spare £1 a month (or more) please fill in the form on the post and let George know.

I hope a light will be shone on the persistent cover up of the ‘dark years’, the culpability of Percy and the board and that those more widely implicated will absorb some of Mr J’s sense, fairness and integrity and now speak out. Critical scrutiny, transparency and honesty is essential for safe, effective and inclusive health and social care.

I’m off to Spain tomorrow with various #JusticeforLB campaigners to walk the LB bus the last 170 miles to Santiago de Compostela*.

After that it’s back to work. And life.

Thanks, thanks and many more thanks – so many thanks – to everyone who did and kept doing what they could and so much more. We seriously smashed it.


*UK walks are also taking place. Rumour has it, in another magical twist, Mr Fortune, Winnie Betsva’s barrister from the inquest is doing the Devon walk.




18 thoughts on “Smashing it

  1. You have the greatest admiration from everyone who cares about adults or children with learning disabilities or mental heath. You have inspired us all to carry on fighting when it seems such a struggle. You have truly smashed it! Thank you for letting the world know that those with learning disabilities matter!

  2. Tears and more tears and a massive massive thank you. ‘Making dirty practices by public sector funded and instructed counsels visible in real time is priceless’ . Cant say more than that. Walk Spain knowing that you have shown what is possible. Sending hugs to all

  3. And many more thanks for the inspirational efforts of you and your family and all those who’ve helped lay bare the shameless and shameful goings on. As you walk to Santiago ‘may the road rise to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back, and may the sun shine warm upon your face’. x

  4. Ditto all the above – and enjoy Spain. Sorry couldn’t join you in Oxford owing to bad back injury but our thoughts on the judgement are at – along with a few ideas on apt punishments for Percy (if they were legal!).

    Sara – the link to the judgement on line 1 of your post does not to work on my server. If anyone else has this problem, there is also a link on the CRASH blog post via the same link as above.

  5. You’ve done it for everyone too – British justice has won out in the end and you’ve totally changed that agency too. George Julian been an inspiration. My hope you can now get your life back now – you could not have done more!

  6. Massive respect for you. As Josephine has said above… you have inspired us all to carry on fighting, to speak up and never give up. You are truly inspirational. xx

  7. This is why Britain is still great. Cruel practices can be challenged and we have great judges who are honourable men (and women). It just took your and your family’s persistence to make it happen.

  8. Congraulations seems the wrong word, given the fact that your precious son is still lost. But as you have said, you did him proud, and that you most certainly did. And you’re right, the bereaved should never have to campaign for justice. People working in public services (or anywhere) should never just leave their humanity in the cloakroom when they get to work. Unfortunately it seems a disease of too many people who would sooner protect their jobs and their organisations instead of the people they have a duty to care for. I can’t imagine what it must have been like other than horrific. But you have my heartfelt respect. Tania, Special Needs Jungle

  9. We have huge admiration for what you and your family have achieved. You have paved the way. I’m not sure that it shows how great this country is but it does show how great British people can be when determined to fight for justice and expose the truth. The law often seems to be putting obstacles in the way of the truth coming out. But thanks to your courage justice has been done. But while we face delays and obfuscations in our attempts to get justice for our daughter Colette’s death, we know that each time the battle has to be fought again. It is fundamentally wrong that bereaved families, like yours and ours, should have to crowd fund to even get a proper hearing. However now is a time to celebrate. Enjoy your walk in Spain!

  10. Thank god you finally got the justice and recognition that you and your family deserve. I am so full of admiration for your courage and your determination . I have cried at your blog and laughed along with it too, it’s strange how a boy I’ve never met can mean so much to me. This judgement enables you as a family to hopefully close the circle, LB will never be forgotten and will live on in the hearts of strangers too. I smile each time I pass his little red bus postcard in my hallway. Much love xxx

  11. Great omen finding the mermaid shells. love and respect sent from many miles away. Your tenacity and energy amazing to see. next book maybe a survival guide for long hauls like this? Enjoy the Camino.

  12. I hope the formal recognition (finally) of all the utter misery and horrific denial you’ve all faced has brought some peace with it.
    I think the arrogance and seeming inability to reflect and question own actions that persists at senior management level is terrifying. In work I am watching a similar process with upper echelons in social care…and in trying to force a break, a pause so we can ensure people with learning disabilities are understanding properly in order that they can then be involved we are being seen as unhelpful, delaying & challenging – mild compared with your experiences but sinister nonetheless.
    I’m not sure how we change things but you and your family’s tireless work (with some very cool friends and allies along the way) has tipped the table up in a way which honours LB & has enabled (via twitter) many of the good eggs (who are priviledged to count people with learning disabilities among their friends and/or colleagues) to link up which can only be a good thing.
    I must now remember to explain the ruling to my colleagues who were so horrified to learn about what was done to LB. I hope they will draw some comfort from the ruling too. xxx

    • It’s so good to read your words, Jo, as compassionate professionals like you make a difference. I’m sure lots of good families and good professionals are feeling stronger now.

  13. Pingback: “Our services are now safer” | Campaign for Reform At Southern Health

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