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No retrial for surgeon after appeal overturns conviction for patient death

Published 16/11/2016

David Sellu was present in court when Sir Brian Leveson announced that the conviction should be quashed
David Sellu was present in court when Sir Brian Leveson announced that the conviction should be quashed

A surgeon who served a jail sentence over the death of a patient at a private hospital will not face a retrial following a successful appeal against his conviction.

David Sellu, now 69, was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter in November 2013 and handed a two-and-a-half-year prison term at the Old Bailey.

On Tuesday, three Court of Appeal judges in London allowed his challenge against the conviction relating to the death of father of six James Hughes, from Northern Ireland.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, a Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said: " We respect the judgment and note that there is no suggestion this case should not have been brought.

"Mr Sellu has served the full sentence imposed upon him following his conviction and taking this and other factors into account, including the views of Mr Hughes's family, the CPS does not believe it would be in the public interest to seek a retrial."

Mr Hughes, 66, died at the Clementine Churchill Hospital in Harrow, north-west London, after falling unexpectedly ill following knee surgery.

The retired builder had a planned left knee replacement on February 5 2010. The operation went well but while recovering he developed abdominal pain and was transferred to Mr Sellu's care.

The standard of the doctor's care of Mr Hughes over about 25 hours formed the basis of the case against him.

At a recent hearing, the Court of Appeal judges heard that the "essence" of the prosecution case was that the doctor, a "respected consultant colorectal surgeon", should have performed an operation to repair a perforated bowel "at a much earlier time".

But a QC argued on behalf of Mr Sellu, who served 15 months before being released in February last year, that his conviction for gross negligence manslaughter was "unsafe".

Mr Sellu, of Hillingdon, was in court on Tuesday when Sir Brian Leveson, who heard the case with Lord Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Globe, announced that the conviction should be quashed.

The appeal was allowed on the ground of directions given to the jury by the trial judge on the issue of gross negligence manslaughter.

Sir Brian said the Court of Appeal did not believe that "Mr Sellu had the benefit of sufficiently detailed directions to the jury in relation to the concept of gross negligence contained within the offence of gross negligence manslaughter".

The judge concluded: "Although we reject the grounds of appeal based on fresh evidence and causation, we have come to the clear conclusion that the way in which the issue of gross negligence manslaughter was approached - and in particular, the consequential direction to the jury - was inadequate. As a result, the conviction is unsafe and is quashed."

Mr Sellu said in a statement: "I am pleased with the decision of the appeal court who have finally established my innocence.

"This has been a long and painful ordeal for me and my family and a difficult case for all parties."

He thanked his family "for standing by me" and his friends and supporters "for believing in me and mounting a robust campaign to clear my name".

Dr Jenny Vaughan, chair of Friends of David Sellu, said: "On behalf of all the hundreds of friends of David Sellu across the country we are delighted with the judgment and that this conviction is now quashed.

"David Sellu gave 40 years of his life serving his patients before this happened to him."

In a statement, the family of Mr Hughes said that "given that Mr Sellu has served his sentence, we will not be seeking a retrial".

They said: "Our father's suffering was not prioritised as the emergency it so clearly was. The truth is our father was a fit and healthy man, who lived a busy and active life.

"We have no doubt that Dad would have wanted the truth of his untimely death to be exposed.

"However, we do not want to remember him for how he died but rather how he lived, with love for friends and family and a zest for life."

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