Hospital faces criminal charges over death of young man killed by train after he fled

Matthew Caseby suffered a mental health crisis on 3 September 2020 and was detained by Thames Valley Police in Oxford (Family handout)
Matthew Caseby suffered a mental health crisis on 3 September 2020 and was detained by Thames Valley Police in Oxford (Family handout)

A care provider is facing two criminal charges over the death of 23-year-old Matthew Caseby, it has been revealed.

The Priory Group, which is one of the largest private mental health care providers in the UK, has been charged by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) over Caseby’s death in September 2020.

The young man was hit by a train a few hours after he escaped from the Priory Hospital Woodbourne in Birmingham by climbing over a fence.

Following a two-week inquest in April last year, a jury ruled that neglect by the hospital had contributed to his death, after a series of failings allowed him to leave the hospital unattended.

Matthew’s father, Richard Caseby, who campaigned for a prosecution, said: “These have been long, hard years since Matthew died.

“I am relieved that the Priory Group is finally being held accountable and the CQC is prosecuting the company for offences associated with the death of my son.

“But the proceedings bring no real satisfaction. A trial just prolongs the day when my family can grieve Matthew’s loss quietly and privately.”

The charges against the Priory Group, brought by the CQC under the Health and Social Care Act 2008, are that it failed to take all reasonable steps to stop a patient from being exposed to avoidable harm, and exposed a patient to significant risk of harm.

The Priory Group will have a plea hearing on 24 November, at which it will face the prospect of an unlimited fine.

Matthew suffered a mental health crisis on 3 September 2020 and was detained by Thames Valley Police in Oxford. Two days later, he was sent 80 miles away to the Priory Hospital in Birmingham.

The inquest into his death found that, prior to his leaving the hospital, he was left unattended in a courtyard by staff – a decision that was deemed to have been “inappropriate and unsafe”.

Staff had raised concerns that he might climb the fence and leave the hospital; however, there was no evidence that those concerns had been followed up or recorded.

Upon being admitted to the hospital, Matthew was assessed as being at low risk of suicide and self-harm, but later in the day it was noted that he was at risk of fleeing.

The inquest heard that the hospital’s recording processes were inadequate, resulting in a lack of communication by staff caring for Matthew.

There was no policy in place for the level of observation required within the hospital’s courtyard, which made it “unsuitable for patients”.

The inquest also highlighted that, despite staff having concerns over the height of the fence, these were not raised officially. This was despite senior managers being aware of incidents that took place before Matthew’s death.

Coroner Louise Hunt issued a prevention of future deaths report to the Priory Group and the Department of Health and Social Care following Matthew’s inquest.

Earlier this year, another major private mental health provider, Cygnet Health Care, was fined £1.5m over the death of a young woman who took her own life at Cygnet Ealing Hospital.

Last year, the CQC launched a criminal investigation into the death of a 14-year-old girl at the scandal-hit Taplow Manor mental health hospital, which has been the subject of multiple exposés by The Independent.

The Priory Group said it is unable to comment ahead of court proceedings.