Up to 30 care homes could face criminal investigation depending on results of a Garda inquiry into the death of a woman in a residential home during the Covid19 pandemic in 2021.
That’s according to today’s Irish Times.
Gardaí are examining the care received by a woman in a Co Cork home in the period leading up to her death which occurred during one of the worst periods of the pandemic.
Sources have confirmed to The Irish Times the case is being investigated as potential gross negligence manslaughter.
The care home in question saw a large number of fatalities in the first 18 months of the pandemic which began in early 2020.
The Irish Times understands the investigation has been ongoing for a significant period of time and that a large number of interviews have taken place, including with relatives and care home staff.
A file on the case is due to go to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) very shortly and it will make a final decision on what, if any, charges are brought.
The evidential bar for proving gross negligence manslaughter is very high. Prosecutors must prove the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased, that negligent treatment occurred and that negligence was of a very high degree and posed an obvious and severe risk of harm.
The maximum sentence for individuals is life imprisonment or an unlimited fine. Companies can also be charged with the offence, in which case a fine can be imposed on conviction.
The case is being treated by gardaí as a test case and the decision by the DPP will likely dictate the progress of similar criminal complaints by families of relatives who died in care homes during the pandemic.
Just under 60 claims have been lodged against the HSE relating to deaths in residential units.
Some 43 of these relate to private care homes and 16 relate to acute hospitals or community settings, according to a breakdown from the State Claims Agency.