Suffolk

Vincent Barker death: Optometrist Honey Rose given two-year suspended sentence

Honey Rose
Image caption The lack of diagnosis by optometrist Honey Rose was deemed so severe a criminal case was brought against her

An optometrist who failed to spot an eye condition in a boy who later died has been given a suspended jail term.

Vincent Barker, eight, known as Vinnie, died in July 2012 after fluid built up on 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 of gross negligence manslaughter.

Rose, a mother of three, was handed a two-year jail sentence, suspended for two years.

Live updates on this and other stories from Suffolk

Sentencing her, Judge Jeremy Stuart-Smith said it was the first case of its type.

He ordered Rose to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and gave her a 24-month supervision order.

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

Rose is to apply for permission to appeal, according to the Association of Optometrists.

A spokesman declined to comment further on the case due to a fitness to practise hearing she faces before the General Optical Council.

During her trial, 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 alleged her conduct had been so far below the expected standard it was "criminal".

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

'Closed his eyes'

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 on the 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.

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

"For whatever reason, she did not look at the back of the eye," said Rose's barrister Ian Stern QC. "She had no foreseeability as to the consequences."

He described Rose's failure to examine the back of Vincent's eyes as an "inexplicable lack of action" and a "one-off".

Sentencing, Judge Stuart-Smith accepted Rose's lack of diagnosis had been a "one-off", but said she had tried to "cover up" her actions when she found out Vinnie had died.

He said Rose had tried to show the boy had not co-operated and demonstrated signs of photophobia when being assessed.

A written statement from Vinnie's mother, Joanne Barker, said: "The knowledge our loss should have been prevented and Vinnie should have been saved is intolerable to live with."

Det Supt Tonya Antonis, of Suffolk Police, said the force and the family were "satisfied" with the suspended sentence, adding charges were brought to make sure the profession was held to account and that it "doesn't happen to anyone else".

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites