Lisa Morris (left), Robert and Linda Wade (centre) and Melanie Leahy (right) who lost their sons while they were patients at the Linden Centre in Chelmsford claim there are failings in Essex mental health services (Image: Ricci Fothergill/RMC)
The group are pushing for a statutory public inquiry in their memory.
For many Essex families, a statutory public inquiry is the only shot they believe they have at securing justice for their loved ones.
It comes following a string of deaths under the county’s mental health services over the last few decades where failings were subsequently found in the care that certain patients received.
Around 20 Essex families are now demanding answers through an inquiry which would see members of staff questioned under oath for the first time.
EssexLive will be speaking to some of the families at the heart of the campaign who believe their children, parents and siblings were failed by the system.
We will be sharing their stories every day over the next week as they shed light on how their relatives tragically lost their lives in places designed to keep people safe.
An eight-year fight for justice
In 2012, Matthew Leahy was found hanged just seven days after being admitted to the Linden Centre in Chelmsford, Essex.
The inquest into his death in 2015 concluded that Matthew was subject to “a series of multiple failings and missed opportunities over a prolonged period of time by those entrusted with his care”.
A report from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman last year also uncovered 19 instances of serious failings into Matthew’s care under the North Essex Partnership NHS Trust – now EPUT.
His mum, Melanie Leahy, has been campaigning for a statutory public inquiry for the last eight years, and now has the support of around 20 other Essex families seeking the truth about what happened to their loved ones.
“There’s a lot more to come out,” Melanie claimed. “I know other things happened to my son, and in the last eight years, not one member of staff has been interviewed under oath.
“That’s the only way I can get it, through a statutory public inquiry.
“I’m going to fight this. This is a national crisis, if what I’m doing can create change here, it’s going to happen elsewhere, it has to.”
Lisa Morris, whose son Ben was found hanged at the Linden Centre in 2008, is one of the many families supporting Melanie in her bid for an inquiry.
She said: “We’re not just grieving mums who can’t accept their kids have taken their own lives.
“I think 12 years down the line after Ben’s death and after all their internal inquiries, that’s changed nothing.
“Let’s have a proper fresh-eyed investigation on all these deaths. Let’s really see what’s gone wrong and force the change.
“We’ve got one shot at this.”
The group now wants to encourage other Essex families who believe their relatives were let down by the county’s mental health services to join the fight.
A spokesperson for EPUT said: “Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) extends its deepest condolences to those impacted by the death of people in the care of the former North Essex Partnership Trust.
“From the first day we established EPUT in April 2017 our top priority has been to continuously improve patient safety.
“We have an ongoing programme of improvements so that we can provide the best possible care for our patients.
“We are cooperating fully with ongoing investigations into the care of patients under the former North Essex Partnership Trust.”
‘It is essential to get the truth’
The families have secured the support of Hodge, Jones & Allen solicitors who have agreed to work on a pro bono basis to try to secure a public inquiry.
They claim that only after a “comprehensive and in-depth investigation” will things start to change for the better.
Nina Ali, Partner at HJA, said: “HJA is intent on helping these families secure the justice that they deserve.
“It is essential to get to the truth of what happened – all those families whose loved ones died whilst they were under the care of Essex mental health services are owed answers for their loss.
“A Statutory public inquiry is needed to ensure that a comprehensive and in-depth investigation is carried out and those responsible are held to account. It is only then, that things can and will begin to change for the better.
“We urge all affected families and individuals to get in touch with HJA. The call for a Statutory public inquiry is to include everyone affected by the failings of Essex mental health services: families of children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly who have died and individuals who have been through ‘the system’ and suffered but survived.”
Priya Singh, Associate at HJA claims: “It is not only families of the bereaved who are coming forward but also ex-patients from whom we’ve heard shocking reports of abuse suffered by the victims whilst in care. These stories are harrowing.
“Vulnerable people have entered what are meant to be centres of trust and safety – a number voluntarily submitted themselves for help – only to be abused and exploited by some professionals who should protect them.“
They come in with mental health issues and leave – if they leave – in a much worse off state than before.
“No family, no individual should ever have to go through that. These families have been failed by the organisations that are set up to treat and care for patients.”
If any families would like to share their stories or find out more about the campaign, you can email :
Credit: Elliott Hawkinshttps://www.essexlive.news/news/essex-news/essex-families-fighting-justice-loved-