A fine of £60,000 has been imposed on Lanarkshire Health Board after the board pled guilty to breaching health and safety legislation following the suicide of a patient under a compulsory treatment order. Mr Maguire, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was placed on constant observation because of the high risk that he would attempt suicide. Despite this, early on the morning of 23 November 2012, he was able to take his own life.
The board’s failure to maintain constant observation teamed with the incorrect fitting of an anti-ligature door handle led to the board pleading guilty to a breach of sections 3(1) and 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
It is rare for a health board to be prosecuted in respect of the death of a patient at a hospital. Indeed, amongst the factors taken into account when deciding the level of fine was the impact that a fine would have on the health board’s provision of services. Taking this into account, the Sheriff made a substantial reduction on the fine.
While we await guidelines from the Scottish Sentencing Council on health and safety prosecutions, the published sentencing statements in cases like this provide useful guidance on the approach currently being taken by the judiciary.