Suffolk

Optometrist Honey Rose guilty over Vincent Barker death

Honey Rose
Image caption Optometrist Honey Rose outside Ipswich Crown Court

An optometrist who failed to spot an eye condition in a boy who later died has been found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter.

Vincent Barker, eight, known as Vinnie, died in July 2012 after fluid built up in his brain.

Honey Rose, 35, from Newham, East London, performed a routine eye test on the child five months earlier. She said she had "done her best" for him.

But jurors at Ipswich Crown Court found her guilty after a 10-day trial.

Image copyright Barker family
Image caption Vinnie Barker died after a build-up of fluid in his brain led to an increase in pressure in his skull

Rose told the court she conducted all the required tests during Vinnie's eye examination at the Ipswich branch of Boots on 15 February 2012.

But the prosecution claimed her conduct had been so far below the expected standard it was "criminal".

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During the trial the jury heard there were "obvious abnormalities" in both of Vinnie's eyes visible during the examination.

Photographs taken by another staff member of the back of his eyes shortly before he was examined by Rose suggested he had bilateral papilloedema - a condition in which optic discs at the back of each eye become swollen because of raised pressure within the skull.

Jonathan Rees QC, prosecuting, said this "would have been obvious to any competent optometrist" and should have led to an urgent referral to treat "a life-threatening condition".

A build-up of fluid in his brain increased pressure in Vinnie's skull and ultimately led to his death.

Rose had claimed her examination of Vinnie was tricky because he had closed his eyes to the light and looked away during the test.

Jurors took just over two hours with their deliberations to find Rose guilty.

Image copyright Barker family
Image caption The Barker family said a guilty verdict would "never make us winners, our loss is simply too great"

The Barker family said in a statement: "The outcome of this case does not change our life sentence; we will never be able to fully accept that our special little boy is never coming home.

"The decision of a jury or judge cannot bring Vinnie back or undo the devastation of his death.

"A guilty verdict would never make us winners, our loss is simply too great."

Det Supt Tonya Antonis from Suffolk Police said: "If this case makes the optometry profession reflect on their practices and review their policies to prevent it happening to anyone again, or encourages other parents to take their children to get their eyes tested with the knowledge that any serious issues would be picked up, then it will be worthwhile."

The Association of Optometrists said the case was the first of its kind in the UK.

Rose will be sentenced at a later date.

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