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Surgeon's manslaughter conviction quashed by Court of Appeal

In Sellu v The Crown [2016] EWCA Crim 1716 the Court of Appeal have quashed the conviction of consultant surgeon David Sellu for gross negligence manslaughter after finding that it was unsafe.

Mr Sellu, 69, was convicted on a 10-2 jury majority in the Old Bailey in 2013 after James Hughes died whilst in his care.  At trial, the Crown’s case focused on the standard of care in the 25 hours following routine knee surgery and the patient’s subsequent development of abdominal pain.  It was heard that Mr Sellu was aware that the patient urgently needed an operation for a suspected perforated bowel, however there were no anaesthetists available at the Clementine Churchill Hospital in Harrow.  A decision was made that it would not have been safe to move the patient to a nearby hospital for the operation to be carried out.  A copy of Mr Justice Nichol's original sentencing remarks can be found here.

Mr Sellu served 15 months of his two-and-a-half year prison sentence before being released on bail pending his appeal.

Sir Brian Leveson, Lord Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Globe agreed that the Court had not provided adequate guidance to the jury on the meaning of ‘gross negligence’.  The test is split into three stages; whether there was a duty of care to the deceased, whether there a breach of that duty which caused, or significantly contributed, to the death of the victim, and whether the breach was one that should be categorised as grossly negligent.

Following the Court of Appeal's decision, the Crown was given 24 hours to enter any application for a retrial.  It is understood that no such application was lodged.

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