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Police refuse to investigate NHS worker who filmed and shared video of naked patient

19 March 2024, 07:42

The incident happened at the Harbour
The incident happened at the Harbour. Picture: Google Maps

By Charlotte Lynch and Connor Hand

An NHS worker who covertly filmed and then shared footage of a naked patient at a psychiatric hospital will not face a police investigation, LBC has discovered.

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Rebecca* was sectioned under the Mental Health Act earlier this year following a psychotic episode and placed at the Harbour psychiatric hospital in Blackpool, run by the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust.

Shortly after arriving, Rebecca experienced a severe behavioural episode in the ward’s seclusion suite and was tended to by nurses and mental health professionals. CCTV footage captured one mental health support worker pretending to type on their phone screen whilst secretly filming Rebecca, who was fully undressed and understood to have been performing an explicit act.

The accused female member of staff, who is a permanent employee of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, later showed at least three colleagues the footage, one of whom reported the incident.

Rebecca's family have told LBC that days later, after she was told she had been the subject of an illicit recording whilst in a severe state of distress, Rebecca attempted to take her own life.

Although evidence has been made available to Lancashire Police, officers have decided no crime has taken place and will not proceed with an investigation.

It's despite a new law that makes it illegal to record and share an intimate video of someone without their consent.

Her partner Allan* told LBC the "appalling" breach of trust has set her recovery back and "left her feeling more insecure in herself and less trusting - she feels she has lost something of herself".

"The failure of the police to take this degrading, humiliating and despicable act against her seriously enough to investigate just adds to the weight we currently feel," he said.

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The incident happened at The Harbour
The incident happened at The Harbour. Picture: Google Maps

LBC understands both NHS Trusts are conducting an internal investigation, but experts have said they believe a crime has taken place and police “need to look again”.

Catherine*, who is a close relative of Rebecca’s and works as a senior mental health professional, told LBC: “Rebecca wasn’t just detained, she was secluded.

"One of the reasons for seclusion was to maintain her privacy and dignity because she was naked. This makes the covert recording all the more egregious.”

She said a police investigation would give them answers to crucial questions: "We still do not know who has seen the recording. Have they downloaded it? Have they stored it somewhere else? Have they shown it to other friends and family? We have no idea.

"It breaks my heart that she now has this totally bizarre, degrading, humiliating element to her care and treatment. I'm a senior mental health professional, and I don't know how to make this right," she said.

"When Rebecca is well she is someone who is very modest - it feels particularly wounding for her and her partner. He is a very stoic man - I've never known him to cry, but when we talk about this, we both cry. We can't fix this... we can't make it go away."

Former Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird KC told of her surprise at Lancashire Constabulary's decision, citing the new law introduced in January.

She told LBC: "It looks like criminal activity to me. Section 66B of the Sexual Offences Act says that if somebody intentionally shares a photograph showing that person in an intimate state, and that person doesn't consent, and the person sending it doesn't believe they're consenting, then it's an offence. It seems to be absolutely to cover this situation.

"The police really do need to think again. The public interest, seems to me, to cry out for this to be prosecuted to make the point to other people that they can trust the mental health services in the NHS, and they aren't going to be exposed in this way."

Dame Vera Baird
Dame Vera Baird. Picture: Alamy

The specific offence of recording and sharing explicit footage of somebody without their consent was introduced as part of the Online Safety Bill on 31st January 2024.

The Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust has confirmed the incident occurred on 4th February this year, and it was reported just over a week later, on 12th February.

However, irrespective of whether they keep their job, concerns have been raised that evidence of their actions will not appear on DBS checks should they apply to join another NHS Trust in future, prompting fears that more vulnerable adults such as Rebecca could be exploited by this individual in the future.

Dame Vera Baird KC backed calls for a police investigation to ensure the staff member could not harm another patient in this way.

She told LBC: "If this [staff member] isn't dealt with by police there will be nothing on her record to indicate this ever happened. If her nature is what it is, indicated by this behaviour, other people are going to be exposed to the same kind of treatment. It really cannot happen."

Responding to LBC’s findings, Ursula Martin, Chief Strategy and Improvement Officer at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, said: “On 12 February 2024, we received a report of an incident where a patient had been filmed by a temporary member of staff at The Harbour.

“Patient safety is our priority and as such, we take reports of this nature very seriously.

“We are working with the patient’s family, as well as the police and an internal investigation is underway. Appropriate policies are being followed and we are unable to comment further at this time.”

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals confirmed it is working with Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and said it would be inappropriate to comment further while investigations are ongoing.

*Names changed to protect the identity of those concerned.

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