The Robbie Powell case, Dyfed Powys Police and the CPS

15 December 2014

The Robbie Powell case, Dyfed Powys Police and the CPS

by Will Powell

Robbie Powell died on the 17th April 1990 of Addison’s disease, which is a treatable disease that was suspected by Morriston Hospital four months earlier. The test to confirm the condition was ordered by the hospital consultant, in December 1989, but not performed. Although untreated Addison’s disease invariably results in death, my wife and I were not informed of the suspicion or that the test was needed. However, Robbie’s GPs at the Ystradgynlais Health Centre had been formally put on notice and instructed to immediately re-refer Robbie back to hospital if he became unwell.

Between the 2nd and 17th April 1990 Robbie was seen by five GPs on seven separate occasions. Only one GP read the crucial information in the GP medical records and informed the Powells that he would immediately re-refer Robbie to hospital. He failed to do so. During the 15 days Robbie’s symptoms, including vomiting, were all characteristic of Addison’s disease. The child’s health deteriorated and he became so weak he was unable to walk unassisted and, in the last days of his life, became critically dehydrated, which is the last stage before death. On the day of death Robbie collapsed and fainted as his mother assisted him to the bathroom. When the child regained consciousness he had dilated pupils and blue lips as a consequence of diminished blood pressure, which was being caused by the critical dehydration. The GP who attended refused hospital admission notwithstanding Robbie’s critical condition and that she had examined him eleven days earlier. We called the hospital for advice and were told to trust the GP but to get her out again if we were worried.

Following another call to the health centre the same GP attended. Unbelievably, she again refused hospital admission and only relented after a heated argument. The GP then refused our request for an ambulance and stormed out of the house. I immediately drove Robbie to Morriston Hospital in the family care. The hospital is approximately 12 miles from our home and 30 minutes in time. On arrival Robbie stopped breathing in the presence of his father and was declared dead shortly after. The medical notes recorded, amongst other things, that Robbie had dilated pupils and central cyanosis [blue lips] exactly as his parents had described him at the first GP consultation that day. The child wasn’t even cold on his death bed when the lies and NHS cover up was initiated.

After reading the above some may ask why we didn’t take Robbie to hospital or call 999. I have asked myself the same question for almost 25 years. My only defence is that I didn’t realise at the time that Robbie was seriously ill because 5 GPs had said there was nothing seriously wrong with him - Robbie was seen four times by three different GPs in the last three days of his life, two of which were senior partners. I am therefore guilty of trusting doctors with Robbie’s life and will live with this guilt for the rest of my life.

To every parent out there - please note that Robbie’s case demonstrates that doctors are not always right and it is better for you to take your child to hospital and be wrong than to trust doctors who may be incompetent and/or negligent.

There is no doubt that Robbie Powell died as a consequence of a catalogue medical errors that should never have happened. It is medical opinion that some of the doctors have been grossly negligent, which is the criteria for gross negligence manslaughter.

Rather than accept the consequences for Robbie’s needless death and learn from the unintentional errors, to avoid repetition, the GPs and the hospital conspired to falsify Robbie’s medical records to create a defence they would not otherwise have had.

I complained about Robbie’s care, or lack of it, thirteen days after the child’s death and was led into a minefield of bias, dishonesty and corruption, known by all as the NHS complaint procedures. The December 1990 Medical Services Committee hearing, chaired by a Magistrate with two lay and two medical members was a complete whitewash of the true facts. The medical members accepted evidence from the GPs, which they knew was untrue, and the committee totally ignored my corroborated evidence and that of my witnesses. The subsequent report did not accurately reflect the evidence given at the hearing. However, when I requested the available contemporaneous notes of the hearing they were intentionally destroyed.

I complained to the Health Service Ombudsman in the 1990s but he refused to investigate any of my justified and serious complaints regarding the NHS cover up. In fact, I found out many years later that the Ombudsman’s staff had made numerous derogatory comments about me such as; I was a caveman, street wise alley cat, liar, loud and aggressive. In 2004, fourteen years after Robbie’s death, I received a face to face apology from the then Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, and a subsequent written apology. I also received a written undertaking that no other bereaved parent would receive the same appalling treatment that I had received and that lessons had been learned as a consequence of Robbie’s case. It therefore added insult to injury that only this year [winter 2014] the Ombudsman’s office has been publicly criticised for the very same failures that arose in Robbie’s case. 

Following the Medical Services Committee hearing I appealed to the Welsh Office and was granted a hearing at which I could be legally represented – it cost me £34,000. The hearing was convened for three days in March 1992, tactically adjourned for six months and reconvened for a further two days in September 1992, before I withdrew because of collusion between the respondent GPs, Welsh Office officials and the appeal panel. It was established that the GPs had at least one clandestine meeting with the appeal panel and Robbie’s original GP medical records had been altered again during the adjournment with the addition of documents that could only have come from the GPs. Although the Welsh Office had received the original GP medical records, in advance of the appeal hearing and introduced the same as evidence, on the first day of the March segment of the appeal, two Secretaries of State for Wales, John Redwood and William Hague denied for three years that the GP records had been received when there was confirmation in the post room that they had been. An inquiry was set up by William Hague in 1995-96 but it failed to address any of the allegations of collusion and conspiracy and all but cleared the Welsh Office of any wrongdoing. My formal request to reconvene the appeal was refused.

As a consequence of the Welsh Office’s maladministration my MP complained to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, who was also the same person as the Health Ombudsman who had refused to investigate my NHS complaints previously. In November 1993 the Parliamentary Ombudsman claimed that my MP’s serious complaints against the Welsh Office were outside his jurisdiction. When John Redwood untruthfully answered a Parliamentary Question in 1995, regarding receipt of the GP medical records, I requested my MP to complain about this to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. To our amazement the Parliamentary Ombudsman not only agreed to investigate this matter but he would also investigate the alleged maladministration at the 1992 Welsh Office appeal, which his predecessor had refused to do in 1993.

In March 1999, seven years after the event, the Welsh Office was found guilty of maladministration and I received a mere £500 compensation for the injustice and hardship I had suffered. However, as with William Hague’s inquiry, three years earlier, the Parliamentary Ombudsman ignored the collusion between the GPs, Welsh Office officials and the appeal panel. Furthermore, as with the earlier inquiry, the GPs were not even interviewed notwithstanding it was proven that the documents added, during the adjournment of the 1992 appeal hearing, had come from them. I was interviewed and interrogated during the course of both inquiries even though I am the innocent party and the victim of wrongdoing.

Although I was justified and completely vindicated by withdrawing from the Welsh Office appeal the Parliamentary Ombudsman refused to order that the appeal be forthwith reconvened. My formal request to the Welsh Office to have the appeal reopened, in the light of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report, was again rejected by the Secretary of State for Wales. 

As a consequence of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s refusal, in November 1993, not to investigate my MP’s complaint, a decision was made to refer the falsification of Robbie’s medical records to the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions advised that we should make our complaint to Dyfed Powys Police notwithstanding (a) Robbie died in the area of South Wales Police and (b) the GPs were actually employed by Dyfed Powys Police to provide medical services.

On the 4th March 1994 Robbie’s case was personally referred to Dyfed Powys Police. My solicitor and I submitted a detailed report with copious statements, Affidavits and documents supporting the serious allegations of forgery and perverting the course of justice. The obvious conflict of interest regarding the GPs’ employment was not declared to us and only came to light in 1998 after the police cover up.

During the two year criminal investigation Dyfed Powys Police failed to secure s9 statements from my wife and I or any other relevant witnesses. They also refused my request to follow crucial lines of inquiry that should have been obvious to the police. Although Robbie’s Morriston Hospital computer records were central to my allegations that the medical records had been jointly falsified, by Morriston Hospital and the GPs, the police refused to secure them.

Eighteen months into the investigation, but eight months before it was concluded, the GPs were fully aware that no criminal charges would be brought against them, as confirmed by a letter that one of the GPs sent to the Chief Officer of the Community Health Council. As a consequence of this letter the Chief Officer withdrew his support of Robbie’s case.

In January 1996 I was informed by the Crown Prosecution Service [“CPS”] that there was insufficient evidence to charge any of the doctors with criminal offences. When I verbally complained about the inadequacy of the police investigation and made the point about the cogent evidence of criminality submitted to the police the Crown Prosecutor found it amusing and stated that Dyfed Powys Police had left no stone unturned, something he would later deny when this police force was found institutionally incompetent. The CPS had made the decision that there was insufficient evidence in the absence of any s9 statements from the relevant witnesses to the crimes committed.

Because of my challenge to the CPS it came to light that on the occasions the CPS had advised Dyfed Powys Police to investigate gross negligence manslaughter they had failed to do so. Robbie’s medical records were then sent to a medical expert regarding the hospital’s treatment. The expert report confirmed that the consultant was medically grossly negligent, which is the criteria for charging and prosecuting a doctor for gross negligence manslaughter. However, the CPS and the Director of Public Prosecutions took the view that the consultant’s gross negligence did not cause Robbie’s death because of the intervention of the GPs. This is a fact, in my view, that was known, or should have been known, in advance of appointing this particular medical expert. In the light of this decision Dyfed Powys Police/CPS did not appoint a medical expert to consider the gross negligence or otherwise of the police employed GPs and also ignored the cogent evidence against them of forgery and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

In May 1996 the Head of CID informed all parties that no evidence against the GPs regarding a criminal prosecution, already known by the GPs eight months earlier, will be advanced, as it was erroneously claimed there was insufficient evidence. The letter was intentionally worded to ensure that the GPs would evade prosecution, in the future, even if there was sufficient evidence to prosecute, as was the claimed position in 2003. In 2012 the First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales referred to the content of the letter as giving the GPs immunity from prosecution.

I attempted to persuade the CPS to accept there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the GPs at a meeting in November 1996 but it fell on deaf ears.

During the 1994-96 investigation and my subsequent correspondence with Dyfed Powys Police Robbie’s life was treated with utter contempt. In October 1998 I formally complained about the Deputy Chief Constable [“DCC”] to the Chief Constable. However, the DCC intercepted the complaint, responded with an apology, and suppressed the complaint from the Professional Standards Department to prevent an investigation. The letter resulted in Dyfed Powys Police agreeing in January 1999 to have a second investigation into my allegations.

Sixteen lines of inquiry, which were rejected during the first investigation, would now be followed up. However, it soon became apparent that all I was receiving was lip service and there was no intention whatsoever of charging any of the GPs. This led to a formal complaint against the Chief Constable, which the Clerk of Dyfed Powys Police Authority attempted to suppress. As a consequence of my persistence I had a meeting with the newly appointed DCC in April 2000.

I was informed at the meeting, by the DCC, that he had been briefed by the Head of CID [same person that had sent the immunity letter] that all that could be done to investigate my allegations against the GPs was being done or had already been done. When I demonstrated that this was not the case the DCC then agreed to call in an independent police force to review the case.

Below are some failures of Dyfed Powys Police between 1994 and April 2000;

  1.  They had not suspended the employed GPs as is appropriate in the circumstances.
  2. They had not adequately investigated the available evidence.
  3. They had failed to investigate obvious and crucial lines of inquiry and refused to do so when articulated by me.
  4. They had not given the investigation a crime number or set out potential crimes against their employed GPs.
  5. They had not set up a policy book notwithstanding manslaughter and other serious crimes were apparently being investigated.
  6. They had not appointed a Family Liaison Officer for my family.
  7. The Head of CID had sent the GPs an unlawful letter of immunity in 1996 when the gift of immunity is with the Director of Public Prosecutions and is only normally given when perpetrators give evidence of behalf of the Crown.
  8. Dyfed Powys Police files regarding Robbie’s case were removed and/or destroyed in advance of the person being appointed to review the case. A deliberate act that may have been carried out to conceal police impropriety and/or corruption.

A Detective Chief Inspector from West Midlands Police was appointed to review Robbie’s case. His November 2000 report was damning of Dyfed Powys Police and their gross failures over the years. As a consequence of the report two significant developments took place:

  1. The same DCI was appointed to conduct a further criminal investigation, which was code named Operation Radiance. This resulted in a two year investigation and the taking of over 140 s9 statements and the appointment of forensic and medical experts. The 5 GPs were arrested and interviewed under caution. The conclusion of this 2000-2002 investigation was 35 suggested criminal charges against the GPs. The proposed charges were manslaughter, forgery, attempting to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against all 5 GPs and their secretary.
  2. Disciplinary notices were formally served on the Head of CID and a Superintendent. Avon & Somerset Constabulary were appointed to conduct a disciplinary inquiry, which was code named Operation Reboant. However, senior command at Dyfed Powys Police permitted both officers to retire, which in effect, meant that they would not be participating in an inquiry, which was set up specifically to investigate their personal alleged misconduct. To date, neither of these officers have explained the reasons why they failed to adequately investigate Robbie’s death and intentionally ignored evidence of criminality. In 2003 Dyfed Powys Police was found institutionally incompetent. 

The Operation Radiance files and the suggested 35 criminal charges were sent to CPS York, a so called specialised unit, for consideration, because I had made a formal complaint against CPS Wales. CPS York appointed Leading Counsel for advice. However, the person appointed was terminally ill and would not have been able to prosecute the GPs even if she accepted there was sufficient evidence to do so. In my view, this is a very difficult appointment to understand, as the case was already 12 years old with numerous previous failings by both the police and the CPS. Another Leading Counsel was subsequently appointed. In March 2003 it was agreed that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute two GPs and their secretary for forgery and perverting the course of justice. The overwhelming evidence of conspiracy was ignored. However, the prosecutions didn’t take place because of the unlawful immunity letter, the passage of time and the fact that the Dyfed Powys Police and the CPS, for a variety of reasons, had failed to recognise the overwhelming evidence of criminality between 1994 and 2000.

At a meeting on the 2nd April 2003 we were given an inept explanation by Leading Counsel and the appointed special CPS prosecutors as to why there could be no prosecution for manslaughter. It was claimed, wrongly in my view and that of the senior investigating office, that it couldn’t be proven that Robbie would have survived, even if he was admitted immediately following the first consultation, on the day of death. The GP who examined Robbie the day before death, who couldn’t give a blood sugar test because his strips were out of date, at a time Robbie was saveable but critically dehydrated, who also refused hospital admission and who was also found by the medical experts to be grossly negligent, couldn’t be charged either because he said that he would have admitted Robbie to hospital if he had been the doctor who visited the child on the day of death. It is difficult to comprehend such an opinion if it has already been determined that Robbie couldn’t have been saved at that time.

The DCI did a twenty-two page rebuttal as to why there was sufficient evidence to charge for manslaughter. However, the special CPS prosecutors ignored and/or dismissed his request to seek further medical opinion. On reflection it is now perfectly clear that the only person that was attempting to make the GPs accountable for their criminal activity was the English DCI.

During the course of the Operation Radiance investigation the DCI from England had formally put the GMC on notice of Robbie’s case informing them that the numerous improprieties of the GPs would be referred to them at the appropriate juncture.

Dyfed Powys Police and the specialist CPS Prosecutors arranged for a meeting with the GMC to formally refer Robbie’s case for investigation with the knowledge the GPs had evaded prosecution on technicalities and not because of the absence of evidence. A conscious decision was made to exclude the English DCI from the meeting. At the meeting on the 10th March 2003 the GMC informed the police and the CPS that all that was needed was a simple letter of referral setting out why the GPs had not been prosecuted. The GMC also informed them that there was now a 5 year time limit. Please note that this time limit could not affect the police/CPS as the GMC had been put on notice of Robbie’s referral, by the English DCI, two years before its introduction. However, it was obviously known that the time limit could affect me as Robbie had died 13 years earlier, which would make any complaint I made out of time by 8 years.

Following the meeting and with the knowledge I was out of time the police/CPS decided not to refer Robbie’s case to the GMC. They also decided to suppress their decision not to make the referral and also the time limit. The police/CPS then advised me to complain to the GMC knowing the complaint would be deemed out of time. Unaware of this I took the advice and complained to the GMC on the 3rd June 2003.

It took Dyfed Powys Police 3 years to provide the GMC with the Operation Radiance files, a further 2 years for the GMC to have the police files considered by an outside solicitor and 5 years before the GMC considered the 5 year time limit. Please note that the English DCI’s offer to assist the GMC, free of charge, was rejected following an approach by me and the Leader of the Conservative Party in Wales.

In May 2008 my complaint against the GPs was rejected by the GMC. When I informed the English DCI what had happened he was appalled by the actions of the police/CPS/GMC. He provided me with a letter confirming what should have been done and exactly what he would have done had he not been excluded from the March 2003 meeting.

One of the forgeries was claimed subsequently to have been an original by a GP in libel proceedings, which was clearly repeating the earlier crimes that he should have been charged with in 2003. However, the CPS again refused to prosecute him.

In 2003 my complaint against CPS Wales was investigated by an English CPS Prosecutor, a barrister and a further employee of the CPS. The investigation was inept, biased and a complete whitewash. The complaint was therefore not upheld and CPS Wales was completely vindicated for the blatant gross failings set out above. When I attempted to challenge the CPS’s findings and conclusions I was told by the Director of Public Prosecutions that any further correspondence would be filed without response. Some years later I had sight of the official CPS report. Not only had CPS Wales been inappropriately cleared of any wrongdoing, derogatory and inappropriate comments had been made about me.

Two of the forgeries were relied upon as originals again, under oath, at Robbie’s inquest in 2004. Both GPs therefore committed perjury but yet again the CPS refused to prosecute.

On the 12th March 2013 my former MP had an adjournment debate regarding the failures of the CPS in Robbie’s case. This resulted in a 7 hour meeting in May 2014 at my former MP’s office. In October 2014 the Director of Public Prosecutions agreed to reconsider all the decisions previously taken by the CPS since 1994 not to prosecute. You can access the publicity regarding the above development at:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/prosecute-doctors-over-death-son-7314074 and

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2821881/Battling-father-forces-review-CPS-decision-not-charge-doctors-death-son-24-years-ago.html

I anxiously await the opportunity to provide a detailed statement of truth to the CPS and whether or not the doctors responsible for Robbie’s grossly negligent death and the falsifying of the child’s medical will be prosecuted.

Will Powell – NHS Adviser for Mistreatment.com

December 2014