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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Saline Deaths: Freed Nurse 'Was A Scapegoat'

A nurse who spent more than six weeks in custody after being accused of tampering with saline drips at a Stockport hospital was made a "scapegoat", according to her lawyer.

The hospital says heightened security measures will remain in place.

On Friday, police announced they were releasing Rebecca Leighton and dropping all charges in connection with deaths on two wards at Stepping Hill Hospital.

Her solicitor Carl Richmond said he felt police had "jumped the gun" in arresting Miss Leighton.

He said: "I got the feeling there had to be a scapegoat because there was absolute chaos at the hospital and it could not function because of all the speculation.

"I was imploring the police to bail her while they continued their inquiries but the decision was made to charge," Mr Richmond said.

Miss Leighton was first arrested on suspicion of murder and then formally accused of causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life.

Rebecca Leighton could sue for as much as £1m, according to newspaper reports.

The alarm was raised when a higher than normal number of patients were reported to have "unexplained" low blood sugar levels amid fears saline solution had been contaminated with insulin.

After reports in some newspapers that Miss Leighton could sue police for as much as £1m, Mr Richmond told Sky News such speculation was "premature".

He said the 27-year-old nurse would probably meet with her legal team later this week in order to discuss the options available, but had not yet decided whether legal action was appropriate.

Miss Leighton will not immediately be able to return to work.

Mr Richmond said, with her family's support, Miss Leighton was "bearing up reasonably well" after what had been a very stressful period in custody.

The nurse has said she felt she was "living in hell" since her arrest.

She will not be able to return to work as an interim order suspending her from the Nursing and Midwifery Council's register remains in place.

Meanwhile, police have vowed to leave "no stone unturned" in their investigation into the deaths of seven patients.

They have said they are planning to interview at least another 500 witnesses - including staff, patients and visitors.

It is thought more than 700 people could have had access to the area where the bags of saline were being kept.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said tight security measures remain in place and would continue for the foreseeable future.

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