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Fury as police opt against prosecution over Sean Carnahan hospital death

By Michael McHugh

Published 29/07/2016

Tracy Carnahan, whose son Sean Paul died in Belfast City Hospital
Tracy Carnahan, whose son Sean Paul died in Belfast City Hospital

Police have no plans to prosecute over the death of a man at a Belfast hospital, a lawyer told a preliminary inquest yesterday.

Sean Paul Carnahan (22), from the Beechmount area of the city, died in July 2013 - five months after he was admitted to the City Hospital with a brain injury, having tried to take his own life.

Doctors have been reluctant to give witness statements in the case over fears they could be incriminated in any prosecution.

But Belfast Health and Social Care Trust lawyer Mark Robinson told the hearing yesterday: "I understand that the police do not intend to prosecute."

While Coroner Joe McCrisken said the decision was not surprising, Carnahan family lawyer Aiden Carlin said concerns remained outstanding.

"They (police) should not be writing to anyone saying they will not be prosecuting," he added. "The family are deeply disappointed by the investigation.

"A statement of complaint was made to the police two years ago, and this investigation seems to have gone nowhere."

Mr Carnahan was admitted to the Belfast hospital in March 2013 after trying to kill himself. The aspiring chef, who was a regular user of so-called legal highs, was left brain-damaged by the suicide attempt.

His mother, Tracy Carnahan, made a complaint to the PSNI, alleging her son was allowed to waste away while in hospital.

Mr Robinson sought written confirmation from the police that there was no intention to prosecute and an indication from Mr Carnahan's family as to whether or not they intended to challenge that decision.

Mr Carlin said that at this stage the family did not plan to pursue a challenge.

The coroner said that an inquest was the best setting to find out what happened and try and prevent similar deaths.

"At present there are no criminal proceedings anticipated," he explained. "Let's get the answers that the family want, let's find out about Mr Carnahan's long death... let's look at the matters and let's not be derailed by any other satellite litigation."

He added there had been no toxicological analysis or details brought before him about the legal high Mr Carlin was said to have taken.

An inquest was scheduled for September.

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