Priory fined £300,000 over death of girl, 14, in East Sussex hospital

The Priory healthcare group has been fined £300,000 over the death of a 14-year-old girl at one of its hospitals.

Amy El-Keria was being treated at the group’s Ticehurst House psychiatric hospital in East Sussex when she died in November 2012.

A jury inquest in 2016 heard neglect contributed to her death and found she died accidentally of unintended consequences of a deliberate act.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) pursued a criminal investigation and the company admitted to a charge of being an employer failing to discharge its duty to ensure people were not exposed to health and safety risks.

Mr Justice Dingemans, sentencing the London-based private company at Lewes crown court on Wednesday, said the penalty could “never reflect the loss suffered by Amy’s family in this case”.

At an earlier hearing, the court heard that Amy, who has a “known and recent history” of suicide attempts, arrived at the hospital’s high-dependency unit on 23 August 2012.

On 12 November, at 8.15pm, she was found in her bedroom with a ligature tied around her neck and taken to Conquest hospital in Hastings. She died the following day after life support was withdrawn.

Sarah Le Fevre, prosecuting, told the court that a ligature audit of her room, carried out by an untrained member of staff, identified medium risks which were not followed up.

The 2016 inquest jury ruled that staff failed to dial 999 quickly enough, failed to call a doctor promptly and were not trained in CPR. It found that staffing levels were inadequate and that Amy had to be removed from the hospital on a bodyboard because the ambulance stretcher could not fit in the lift.

The jury agreed that Amy may have lived if she had received proper care. The Priory has previously offered its “sincere apologies” to Amy’s family for what it admitted were serious failings.

Dingemans said he had taken into account the company’s guilty plea, lack of previous convictions, “good health and safety record” and its subsequent steps to close and refurbish the unit Amy was in.

The private mental healthcare provider, which had a turnover of £133m and an operating profit of £2m in 2017, was also ordered to pay the HSE’s costs of £65,801.38 and a victim surcharge of £120.

Speaking outside court, Amy’s mother, Tania El-Keria, said: “The public’s eye has been firmly opened to what the Priory stand for, profit over safety. Today is a historic day in our fight for justice for Amy. Our Amy died in what we know to be a criminally unsafe hospital being run by the Priory.”

She added: “This whole painful process has been marked by the Priory’s long and bitter failure to show any level of remorse … or responsibility.

“To us, the Priory are a morally bankrupt company. They continue to take large sums of public money allowing our children to suffer by placing profit over safety. This cannot be allowed to continue and I will not stop fighting until this stops.”

Priory Healthcare said the latest Care Quality Commission report, published in January, rated Ticehurst as “good” in all areas.

“We remain absolutely focused on patient safety and will continue to work closely with commissioners and regulators to learn lessons from incidents and inspections quickly and ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely and robust way,” the group added.

In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email You can contact the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting


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