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Harling woman hails victory for justice

PUBLISHED: 09:56 12 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:21 07 July 2010

AN East Harling Norfolk woman hailed a victory for “justice” this week after she won the latest round in her battle to sue a health trust for damages following the death of her mentally-ill mother.

AN East Harling woman hailed a victory for "justice" last week after she won the latest round in her battle to sue a health trust for damages following the death of her mentally ill mother.

Carol Savage, 50, who was being treated for paranoid schizophrenia, walked out of a psychiatric unit in Essex four years ago and threw herself under a train.

Her daughter, Anna Savage, of East Harling, won a landmark victory last Wednesday to hold South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation liable for violating her mother's "right to life" under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Five Law Lords rejected an argument by the NHS Trust that, in the absence of gross negligence, it could not be held accountable.

Lord Rodger said the health trust was under a general obligation to take precautions to prevent suicides by employing competent, properly trained staff and running a safe system at the hospital.

The Law Lords added that health authorities also had an obligation, if staff knew or ought to know that a patient presented a "real and immediate" risk of suicide, to do all they could to prevent it.

Mrs Savage, who had a history of mental illness, absconded from Runwell Hospital in Wickford, Essex, where she was being treated as a detained patient in an open acute psychiatric ward, in July 2004. After walking two miles to Wickford station, she jumped in front of

a train.

Her daughter sought compensation, claiming that as a result of her mother's death her family suffered distress, anxiety, bereavement, loss and damage. She argued that the trust took insufficient care to protect her mother and, as a public authority, was liable for a breach of her mother's right to life.

Her mother had made a number of attempts to leave the hospital before succeeding, it was alleged. Staff at the hospital failed properly to appreciate the "acute risk" she presented and failed to ensure adequate measures were put in place to protect her life.

Last Wednesday's test case decision by the Law Lords will allow the family to return to the High Court to seek substantial damages against the South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation following a long

legal battle.

Miss Savage her mother was "let down" by the system and her family were still devastated by the horrific circumstances behind her death.

"All our family hope our case will go on to help other families avoid what we have been through over the past four years and finally see truth and justice for Carol - a mother, wife, daughter and sister truly loved who is no longer with us. We are truly delighted by the decision of the House of Lords today. We feel that justice has finally been done," she said.

The family's solicitor, Saimo Chahal, partner at Bindmans LLP, added that the judgment represented a "resounding victory for common sense and humanity" and made it clear that health providers were not outside the reach of Article 2 of

the European Convention on

Human Rights.


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