The Priory is facing a fine of millions of pounds for breaching health and safety laws after a 14-year-old girl with a history of suicide attempts died in its care.
A criminal investigation was launched by the Health and Safety Executive into the private mental healthcare group after the death of Amy El-Keria, who was treated at its Ticehurst House psychiatric hospital in 2012.
The teenager was an NHS-funded patient in The Priory’s care at the East Sussex hospital’s children’s unit near Tunbridge Wells.
On August 23 2012, she was admitted to the hospital’s high dependency unit and on November 11 that year she tied a scarf around her neck in her bedroom, Brighton Magistrates’ Court heard.
She was found at 8.15pm and taken to hospital by 11pm but died the following day after life support was withdrawn.
Sarah Le Fevre, prosecuting, told the court she had a “known and recent history of ligature attempts (which) continued during her time there”.
But she was left with unsupervised access and the means to carry out another suicide attempt, the court heard.
The investigation concluded “procedures for the management of ligature risk had not resulted in effective measures”, Le Fevre said.
On Wednesday afternoon the London-based company indicated a guilty plea after being charged under health and safety laws with being an employer failing to discharge its duty to ensure people were not exposed to risk.
The packed courtroom heard the company would be admitting the offence formally at a Crown Court sentencing hearing next month in front of a judge, with the power to impose an unlimited fine.
The company has a turnover of £134 million for the year ending 2016 and the starting point for the fine would be £2.4 million, Le Fevre said.
We are truly sorry that this very sad incident occurred and extend our deepest sympathies to Amy’s familyThe Priory Group
An inquest in 2016 heard neglect contributed to her death, finding she died accidentally of unintended consequences of a deliberate act.
The case finally went ahead after a series of delays and court administration errors.
District Judge Denise D’Souza apologised to Amy’s mother Tania for the problems this had caused.
The company is expected to be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on February 6.
The Priory Group said in a statement: “We are truly sorry that this very sad incident occurred and extend our deepest sympathies to Amy’s family.
“We continue to invest significantly in improving patient safety at Ticehurst. The hospital is making strong progress under new leadership and continues to be rated ‘good’ in all areas by the CQC.”