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Optometrist found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence over death of eight-year-old boy

A optometrist accused of missing “obvious” signs of a lethal build-up of fluid on a boy’s brain has been found guilty of manslaughter – in the first case of its kind.

Honey Rose, 35, of Newham, London was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday (Friday).

Prosecutors said Rose should have spotted the life-threatening condition which killed eight-year-old Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Barker when he was examined during a routine eye check.

Vincent Barker, 8

Vincent Barker, 8

His mother was was told he required “no treatment whatsoever” following an appointment with locum Boots optometrist Rose, 35, on February 15, 2012.

He collapsed at his home in Ipswich, Suffolk, five months later in July and later died in hospital from an increased pressure on his skull.

A jury of eight men and four women were told during the trial that Vinnie’s life could have been saved if she had noticed “obvious abnormalities” in both of his eyes.

The court had heard from prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC that Rose failed to act on evidence of bilateral papilloedema – swelling of the optic disc at the back of the eye due to raised pressure in his skull.

She failed to give Vinnie an urgent referral and according to the prosecutor, his death was entirely preventable.

Mr Rees said: “This conduct was so bad, it fell so below the expected standard of a competent optometrist that it was criminal, that is the heart of the case.”

“Had he (Vinnie) been urgently referred for further investigation, then the evidence establishes that his hydrocephalus would have been identified and successfully treated by a neurosurgeon using a surgical procedure that would prevent fluid from accumulating.

“This procedure would have prevented him from dying on 13.7.12 and he would have continued to enjoy a normal life as a young boy.

Vincent Barker, 8

Vincent Barker, 8

“Put another way, the defendant’s failure to detect the swelling of Vinnie’s optic discs was a significant contributory factor to his premature death on 13.7.12.”

The court heard Vinnie was taken to the Boots opticians In Upper Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, with his mother Joanne Barker and younger sister, Amber, where Rose, a locum, examined him and deemed he needed no treatment.

Rose claimed she had been unable to properly examine the back of Vinnie eyes with an opthalmoscope because he had photophobia and shut his eyes when she shone a bright light into them at close range.

She also said when she tried to examine him with the opthalmoscope, Vinnie had not looked in the direction she wanted and had what she described as “poor fixation”.

She said she that after “a couple of minutes” of trying she had abandoned examining Vinnie’s eyes with the opthalmoscope.

Rose denied she failed to properly examine Vinnie’s eyes and said she “did the best” she could.

She accepted that if she had been able to see his optic discs she would have spotted there was a serious problem and immediately referred him to hospital.

 Honey Rose age 34 from East Ham leaving Ipswich Crown Court.

Honey Rose age 34 from East Ham leaving Ipswich Crown Court.

In the early hours of July 13 2012 the day of Vinnie’s death he went to his parent’s bedroom complaining of headache.

His father, Ian Barker, gave him Calpol and he went back to bed and the following morning he ate a breakfast and went to school and he seemed fine.

However around 2.50pm the school called Mrs Barker to report Vinnie was sick.

She collected him and took him home where he deteriorated.

Ian Barker and wife Jonne Barker parents of Vinnie Barker

Ian Barker and wife Jonne Barker parents of Vinnie Barker

By 8pm Mr Barker discovered Vinnie was cold to the touch and very sick so he called 999 and paramedics came to resuscitate him before taking him to the A&E department at Ipswich Hospital.

At 9.27pm Vinnie was formally pronounced dead after 40 minutes of attempts to resuscitate him.

Rose was born in India and qualified as an optometrist in her country of birth in 2005 before passing exams in the UK to allow her to practice here.

She registered with the General Optical Council in 2010.

She will be sentenced at a later date.

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