Hospital probe nurse 'a scapegoat'
A nurse who spent more than six weeks in custody was made a "scapegoat" when police "jumped the gun" as she was charged with contaminating saline, her lawyer has said.
Proceedings against Rebecca Leighton, 27, were discontinued on Friday as the probe into the tampering of medical products at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, Greater Manchester, continues with detectives investigating the deaths of seven patients.
She said her life was "turned upside down" and became a "living hell" when she was arrested at her flat in Heaviley, Stockport, on July 20 on suspicion of murder, and then formally accused of causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life two days later.
The alarm had been raised earlier that month when a higher than normal number of patients were reported to have "unexplained" low blood sugar levels amid fears saline solution had been contaminated with insulin.
Her solicitor Carl Richmond said: "I got the feeling there had to be a scapegoat because there was absolute chaos at the hospital and it could not function because of all the speculation. I was imploring the police to bail her while they continued their inquiries but the decision was made to charge. They jumped the gun, though, and tried to build the case against her from there rather than the usual method of bailing her pending further inquiries."
He said he had heard rumours that prosecutors involved in the case were not comfortable with charges being laid against her but ultimately the Crown Prosecution Service decided it thought there was enough evidence against his client.
Mr Richmond said no decision had been made yet to sue police for wrongful arrest but Ms Leighton, her family and her legal team would meet as soon as possible to discuss the matter.
During a bail application last month, it emerged the evidence at that stage against the nurse amounted to her fingerprint being on a saline bag which was damaged by a needle. Her thumb print was also discovered on the bottom of a bottle of antibiotic fluid which contained insulin.
A judge at Manchester Crown Court was told, though, that "many people" had access to both the bag and the fluid, and Ms Leighton had reason to touch them in her role as acting sister.
Mr Richmond said the case later began to unravel when the bag in question - used in saline drips for patients - was later ruled not to have been tampered with. "The police examined the bag properly and concluded it had in fact not been damaged," he said. "We then had fingerprints of other individuals on other contaminated items but my client's fingerprints were not on them. The prosecution became untenable then."