Council faces claim over boy killed by schizophrenic

27 Apr 00
Knowsley Borough Council is facing legal action for compensation from the family of a boy killed by a mentally ill man who four days earlier had been deemed not to need social services support or psychiatric care.

28 April 2000

The family this month forced disclosure of an internal report into the case, which it claims shows serious failings by social services staff.

Fourteen-year-old Lee Kinch was killed in 1996 by Leo Gavan, a mentally disturbed one-armed man who had been taunted by children. Lee was not one of those who had shouted at Gavan, but was not fit enough to run away. Gavan pleaded guilty to manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility after being diagnosed as schizophrenic. Kinch's mother, Sharon Fricker, said of Gavan: 'He is obviously sick and he was left to rot away and became a danger in the community.'

After Gavan's conviction, Knowsley council and St Helens & Knowsley Health Authority commissioned a joint independent case review, conducted by mental health service expert Dr Edward Peck.

Lee Kinch's family claims the report shows that social services staff had seen Gavan regularly over a long period, but were unqualified to reach their decisions to end support and not to refer him to the health authority for psychiatric examination.

Knowsley council declined to comment on Dr Peck's report on the grounds that it was confidential, beyond saying that 'there are no additional issues arising from this incident that would merit further enquiry'.

Lee Kinch's family sought a judicial review of the decision to keep the report secret, claiming this was a breach of NHS Executive guidelines. Knowsley Council supplied a copy of the report this month on condition that it was not published. However, the family is now initiating further legal action for compensation, and for permission to publish the report.

Ian Carruthers, solicitor for Lee Kinch's mother and step father, said: 'The report was damning and clearly Knowsley council has been negligent.'

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