Two former hospital bosses falsely accused of plotting a £2.5m con against the NHS are suing police for more than £16m for being ‘maliciously’ prosecuted.

Andrew Breeze and Dominic Wilson were chiefs at Cawston Park, a private psychiatric hospital near Norwich, when they were arrested in 2006 accused of massively overcharged for services.

Mr Breeze, the hospital’s former director, and Mr Wilson – the site’s finance boss – endured a hellish criminal investigation and trial over the claims.

But the fraud charges against both men were sensationally thrown out seven weeks into the trial at Ipswich Crown Court in July 2009 when the CPS decided it would offer no further evidence.

Clearing the pair of any wrongdoing, Judge Andrew Bate told them: ‘You leave vindicated with your good name intact and your heads held high.’ 

However, despite Judge Bate’s endorsement, their privately-run hospital tanked in the wake of the criminal trial, with Mr Breeze later saying he faced years of hell over the false allegations which ruined his reputation. 

Andrew Breeze, 68, the former director of Cawston Park psychiatric hospital, outside London's High Court, is suing Norfolk police with Dominic Wilson

Andrew Breeze, 68, the former director of Cawston Park psychiatric hospital, outside London’s High Court, is suing Norfolk police with Dominic Wilson

Now, 17 years after their arrest, Mr Breeze and Mr Wilson have launched a £16m compensation claim against Norfolk Constabulary, alleging malicious prosecution and misfeasance in public office, leading to their finances being ruined.

Mr Breeze, 68, and Mr Wilson, 50, say their company, Cawston Park Holdings, suffered massively due to the impact of the investigation, eventually ‘dissolving’ in February 2011.

Both men are suing for the loss of their financial stakes in the wrecked company.

But lawyers for the chief constable of Norfolk Constabulary, Paul Sanford, are defending the damages claim, insisting there were reasonable grounds for pursuing the investigation, and saying the decision to bring charges was made by the CPS.

Mr Breeze and Mr Wilson were arrested after dawn raids at their homes in November 2006 during a police probe into alleged over-charging at the care home, dubbed Operation Meridian.

The pair were accused of conspiracy to defraud by allegedly over-charging in relation to acute patients needing additional levels of care.

But both men were found not guilty.

Five years later, the then solicitor general, Edward Garnier, apologised on behalf of the CPS, declaring: ‘It has become clear that regardless of whether it was proper to investigate the affairs of Cawston Park in the first place, the prosecution should never have got as far as it did.’

After that concession, Mr Breeze said in interviews he felt he had been put through ‘five years of hell’ – with the police probe and aborted trial having destroyed his finances.

Andrew Breeze and Dominic Wilson were chiefs at Cawston Park (pictured), a psychiatric hospital near Norwich when they were arrested in 2006 accused of massively overcharged for services

Andrew Breeze and Dominic Wilson were chiefs at Cawston Park (pictured), a psychiatric hospital near Norwich when they were arrested in 2006 accused of massively overcharged for services

Lawyers for both men now say detectives pursued the investigation in an oppressive style, with the duo’s barrister claiming that ‘officers approached the investigation with a mindset of guilt’.

Anthony Metzer KC highlighted a police interview with one witness, in which a detective allegedly declared: ‘I don’t know where this investigation is going, the problem we have is that the powers that be want a result on this one’.

On top of that, in written arguments, he claimed officers mishandled the investigation as they allegedly ‘failed to interview witnesses that they knew or believed would be likely to undermine the prosecution and/or assist the claimants’ defence’.

‘The (chief constable) by his officers knew that there was no evidence, or no sufficient evidence that the claimants had committed the offences with which they were charged, but proceeded nevertheless to instigate the prosecution against them,’ the barrister added.

Detectives ‘approached the investigation with a mindset of guilt,’ alleged Mr Metzer, adding: ‘the defendant’s officers systematically ignored and discarded evidence which pointed towards the first claimant and the second claimant’s innocence’.

However, on top of making clear the decision to prosecute lay with the CPS, defence lawyers insist there was ‘reasonable and probable cause for the prosecution’.

The case against Mr Breeze and Mr Wilson was ‘instigated and maintained without malice or abuse of power on the part of the defendant’s officers’, it is claimed.

Mr Breeze, the hospital's former director, and Mr Wilson - the site's finance boss - endured a hellish criminal investigation and trial over the claims.

Mr Breeze, the hospital’s former director, and Mr Wilson – the site’s finance boss – endured a hellish criminal investigation and trial over the claims.

Norfolk Police detectives did their best to sift the evidence impartially before presenting it to the CPS for a decision on whether charges should be brought.

Evidence which was favourable to the two men was ‘fairly placed before the CPS in order that it might decide whether or not the claimants should be charged with any criminal offence’, defence lawyers maintain in court documents.

The malicious prosecution claim was ‘misconceived’ and officers held an ‘honest belief that there was sufficient evidence to lay before a court in support of the charge against the claimants’.

The case was originally fixed to start later this month at the High Court, but after a brief hearing between the lawyers last week Mr Justice Soole decided to put it off until next year for more evidence to be collected.

Describing his case outside court, Mr Breeze said: ‘My whole life was completely turned upside down and I was thrown into a mental state of complete helplessness where there appeared to be no end.

‘The police effectively ended my career, taking away choices I could have had, had this not happened. Mental health is a very small world and it appeared that the whole of mental health knew about this case.

‘My professional and personal career were ruined, with my integrity in question.

‘Being accused of dishonesty was particularly acute for me as someone who had been brought up in a strict Christian home, being the son of missionary parents to India and having spent my childhood in India in a Christian boarding school.

‘The effect this case had on my elderly parents was devastating.

‘Even now, several years later, I sometimes wake thinking I am once again being arrested and the feelings of panic return.’

A Norfolk Constabulary spokeswoman said: ‘We can confirm legal proceedings are ongoing and are being defended. As a result, we will not comment further.’ 

Post source: Daily mail

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