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Case dropped against Stepping Hill nurse linked to saline deaths

The case has been dropped against the nurse charged in connection with four deaths at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, the Crown Prosecution Service has announced.

Rebecca Leighton, a registered nurse at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, was arrested in July after four patient deaths were linked to deliberate contamination of saline solution.

The CPS announced today, Friday, that she would be released immediately as there was “not a case” against her and dropped a charge of criminal damage intending to endanger life.

The statement said Greater Manchester Police’s investigation into the unexplained deaths would continue “with lines of inquiry to be pursued”. It said the case against Ms Leighton could be restarted if further evidence was presented.

Chief crown prosecutor for the North West Nazir Afzal said: “Rebecca Leighton was charged on the basis that there was a reasonable suspicion she had committed the offences and there were reasonable grounds for believing the continuing investigation would provide further evidence within a reasonable amount of time…

“The inquiries, which are still ongoing, have not so far provided us with a stronger case which would meet the test that there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction. This is the test all cases must meet for a prosecution to go ahead.

“We have conducted a review of the case with senior police officers and sought the advice of leading counsel on whether it would be right to keep Rebecca Leighton in custody while investigations are continuing.

“The advice we have received is that on the evidence currently available there is not a case in law which could proceed and that the charges should be discontinued.”

Rebecca Leighton also faced one charge of theft of medication belonging to the hospital. This charge has also been discontinued.

Mr Afzal said: “While there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction on this charge, we have decided it is not in the public interest to proceed as Rebecca Leighton would be likely to receive a nominal penalty given the time she has already spent in custody.”

A spokeswoman for the Nursing and Midwifery Council said: “The NMC is aware of the developments today in the case of Rebecca Leighton, and her release without criminal charge. 

“The interim order suspending Ms Leighton from the NMC’s register, which was imposed on 2 August 2011, will remain in place at present. We will continue to liaise with Stockport NHS Foundation Trust to carry out our own investigations, and establish whether further action needs to be taken.”

“The NMC is unable to comment further at this time.”