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Saturday 18 November 2017

Tears after 'Not guilty' verdict frees GP from 'a living hell'

Bernadette Scully and her partner Andrius Kozlovskis leave the court.
Bernadette Scully and her partner Andrius Kozlovskis leave the court.

GP Bernadette Scully has walked free from the Central Criminal Court after four years "of a living hell".

There were gasps and tears in court as Dr Scully was acquitted of the manslaughter of her profoundly disabled daughter, Emily Barut (11), at their home at Emvalle, Bachelor's Walk, in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

The GP had been charged with administering a toxic dose of chloral hydrate, a sedative.

The trial had been a gruelling one, going on for two weeks, but at the end it took moments for the verdict to be delivered and for Dr Scully to walk free.

In a statement outside the court read by her solicitor, Patricia Cronin, she said the past four years had been "a living hell" for both her and her family.

While Dr Scully respected the need to investigate Emily's death, she said: " I have not only lost my beloved Emily but was unable to attend her funeral.

Grieve

"I haven't yet had the opportunity to properly grieve for her or celebrate her precious life. These proceedings have left me traumatised and emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted."

Bernadette Scully's solicitor Patricia Cronin reads her statement to waiting reporters.
Bernadette Scully's solicitor Patricia Cronin reads her statement to waiting reporters.

Dr Scully said she could not have got through this difficult time but for the love and support of her partner, Andrius, his daughter Kotryna, her "precious mother" and devoted brothers and sisters.

She thanked Judge Patrick McCarthy and her legal team, led by Ken Fogarty and Ger Groark, and she praised the care given by medics to herself in the wake of Emily's death four years ago.

"I have been very humbled by the kindness and support offered to me and my family by friends, neighbours, former patients, the staff at my surgery, the people of Tullamore, Edenderry and surrounding areas, and the complete strangers who have taken the time to send messages,cards, flowers, Mass bouquets and letters," she said.

"Your positive energy has helped me and my family enormously in surviving the past four years and in particular during the course of the trial.

"As I said in my evidence, Emily was my little bird with a broken wing whom I loved, cared for and protected.

"Our struggle is mirrored in the lives of so many people in similar situations in Ireland. Like me, very many parents and carers of children who are disabled, struggle on a daily basis to get access to services and support systems which are very often simply not there."

She said she had been in a "very dark place" four years ago and felt she had no reason to live after Emily's passing.

"I understand what it is like to be in that place, but with the help and support of family, friends and particularly the excellent professional support I received at St Patrick's Hospital I found the strength to go on," she said.

"To anyone with mental health difficulties or who has gone to that dark place of considering self-harm, I would plead with you to reach out to even one person and say how you feel and get the help you need."

The jury had reached its unanimous verdict after deliberating for four hours and two minutes.

A tiny smile of relief formed on Dr Scully's face and her sisters burst into tears as the words "not guilty" were read aloud from the issue paper.

Dr Scully sat still, appearing almost stunned, and then sighed deeply.

The jury was excused from future jury service, and as they left the courtroom one of Dr Scully's sisters waved in gratitude at them, mouthing "thank you".

Judge Patrick McCarthy told them that it was "inappropriate" to make gestures towards the jury.

Tears streamed down the face of Dr Scully as she and her family left the courtroom, and well-wishers came up and shook her hand.

She also shook hands with the gardai and members of the legal team who had handled her prosecution.

Emily was born in December 2000 with severe disabilities.

She had microcephaly, severe epilepsy, was visually impaired and couldn't speak or move unaided.

Upset

The trial heard she had the mental age of six months old. She had been in pain for the last eight days of her life, after a medical procedure to replace a feeding tube.

During the trial, Dr Scully had told how chloral hydrate had been the only medication which had worked when her daughter was particularly upset.

On September 15, 2012, she administered chloral hydrate when her daughter became upset at 2am and 6am.

She said her daughter then had a massive fit after 11am and she administered more.

She said she had given more than double in those nine hours than she had ever previously given in 24 hours. She told gardai she knew she had given too much.

Laboratory tests showed that Emily's blood contained 10 times the therapeutic levels of the chloral hydrate's metabolite and a post-mortem exam found she had died from chloral hydrate intoxication. The State Pathologist said that, potentially, those levels were fatal.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy reminded the jury of the evidence of a retired consultant paediatrician, Dr Kevin Connolly, who had been asked about the high doses of chloral hydrate.

He referred to people who metabolise drugs at different rates to most people in clinical trials, and said that if Emily was one of those, and it had been found she required more frequent or higher doses, "then this was appropriate."

He explained that Emily's body might have been able to handle an increasing dose up to a point but then became overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, Prof Marie Cass-idy had told the trial it was possible Emily had died as a result of a fatal seizure.

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