OPINION: Hospice faces fine and legal bill that totals £415,000 can that be right and just?

In what sane world do you fine a hospice a quarter of a million pounds? And if that’s not enough, according to the BBC news website the judge in the case also ordered that the hospice pay legal costs of £165,000.

The legal system is asking a charity that offers a unique service to those at the end of their lives to meet a bill of £415,000 at Hastings In Focus we think that is just wrong!

The money to run the hospice comes from everyday people doing extraordinary things to raise cash just to keep the facility in existence.

However, we cannot beat about the bush St Michael’s Hospice clearly contravened fire safety regulations and admitted such in court and we need to remember that three people died in the 2015 fire. But to present the organisation with a total bill of over £400,000 – given what it does and how it funds itself – surely makes no sense whatsoever.

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News of the fine imposed on St Michael’s Hospice was reported in this weekend’s Hastings and St Leonards Observer.

The hospice is not a business, the fine will not impact on shareholders. No, the only people who are going to suffer as a result of this are the terminally ill patients who benefit from the caring and compassionate services the hospice offers and their families who have come to rely on the hospice for support in helping them deal with the loss of a relative.

We wonder how all those people feel today who just a few weeks ago took to the streets around the town, running the half marathon to help fund the good work that the hospice does? Some of those runners raised just a few hundred pounds – how many people will need to run the half-marathon in coming years to pay off the fine? How many second hand blouses, jackets or dog-eared paperbacks will the hospice’s charity shops have to sell to make up the deficit?

We are not suggesting that the hospice and its management should get away scot-free. People died as a result of the 2015 fire – a fire believed to have been started as a result of arson – so some kind of sanction is necessary.

But we believe this sanction is not an appropriate one because whether intentional or not the people who will suffer the most as a result of this judgement are the people most in need.

Maybe this issue raises bigger issues about how we fund the hospice movement but that discussion is for another day.

There is a facility at the bottom of this page where you can tell us what you think, we’d love to hear from. What do you think about the fine.

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11 thoughts on “OPINION: Hospice faces fine and legal bill that totals £415,000 can that be right and just?

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  1. I totally agree, our judicial system has taken leave of its senses, who knows when any one of us may need the help and support this unique charity provides in end of life care and, because of this ridiculous fine, they may not be able to be there. This money will come out of our pockets, the children who have donated their pocket money, the walkers, the runners and the cake bakers so maybe, the people who imposed this fine would consider making a considerable donation themselves.

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  2. Legal punishments are supposed to be a mix of punishment and rehabilitation. So surely the courts could be more creative with the punishment side of the sentence when the offender is a charity. I wouldn’t want to start a witch hunt in a charity but if individuals are responsible then individuals should be punished and then retrained so they won’t make those errors in future. It does get trickier if it’s an organisational failure but simply slapping the organisation with a huge fine doesn’t help anyone.

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  3. Bordering on the insane to fix the fine and costs at such a high level, especially as one of the patients started the fire. Fair retribution for failures in the system , this is not. An appeal against the fine, would be in order.

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  4. Mistakes were made, hospice management have admitted to that, but to be fined to such a degree, may mean the hospice closing down completely or reducing the number of palliative care patients.
    The fire was started by a patient who was seriously ill, that has been established. There was no way of knowing that such an evil act would ever happen.
    Staff put their own lives at risk to get people out of the building that night, their commitment has never been questioned but they may now lose their jobs through lack of funds to pay them!
    This ruling has to be questioned. Is such a huge fine in the best interests of all concerned? Certainly not for the patients, staff or local community.
    If this ruling goes ahead, we all lose.

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  5. This must be completely rethought. This was a big enough tragedy as it is without making it even worse. This is not to say that the hospice was in the wrong not to have the proper fire safety measures in place. However, as long as this has been amended and the families of those who lost their lives offered some form of compensation, that should be sufficient. Could this be a way of forcing St Michael’s Hospice out and bringing a privatised, for profit version into play? The fines that have been levied are ridiculous.

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  6. Perhaps the management should face censure in some way gross misconduct? New management brought in? Not the fine I hope the Council try and back an appeal.

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  7. I agree. Mistakes were made and it is clear that the Hospice accepts responsibility and the management team are truly sorry. The fine is so punitive that it will harm the people that the Hospice seeks to help. That cannot be right.The Court has given its ruling and the only way to overturn the decision, and reduce the fine, is to appeal. However, I would just add that one paragraph in this article, states that people died as a result of the fire. As the inquests have yet to take place and the cause of their death determined (they were terminally ill patients), this is an assumption rather than a fact.

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  8. It’s ridiculous that a charity such as this one should be penalised in this way. The value it provides to our community far outweighs the unfortunate failure at the heart of this tragic incident. I wonder how they will manage to carry on…

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  9. You would want punishments if your relative had died in a fire caused by poor health and safety management wouldn’t you? Would be same if was a hospital.

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    1. The patient deaths have yet to be proved as being because of the fire. Sadly, being palliative, they were very near the end, anyway. Of course, no one wants their loved ones to have their time cut short in such a tragic way but maybe they will be able to look at the expert care that they received up until that point.

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  10. Re the previous comment from Fran….nobody died in the fire. I am not saying that there shouldn’t be some form of punishment, but the amount is huge and may prevent the Hospice from providing care for people in the future. Hospitals are fully funded – the Hospice is a charity, only partly funded by the Government.

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