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Inquiry into 13-year-old girl’s suicide to be held

The teenager's mother says NHS Tayside's risk assessments of the case were 'highly inadequate'.

FAI: Scene of preliminary hearing Dundee Sheriff Court
FAI: Scene of preliminary hearing Dundee Sheriff Court

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the death of a 13-year-old private school pupil who killed herself after looking at online “suicide guides” is to focus on the care she received from the NHS before the tragedy.

Sophie Parkinson first sought help from mental health services when she was seven.

The teenager, a second year pupil at the High School of Dundee, reportedly chatted to adults online and looked at self-harm and suicide content before her death five years ago.

Her mother, Ruth Moss, 47, has blamed NHS Tayside for the death and claims Sophie would be alive had she received better care.

A preliminary hearing at Dundee Sheriff Court on Monday before the FAI is expected to start in January (2020) was told that the “actual circumstances” of Sophie’s tragic death would be agreed between lawyers, allowing the investigation to focus on what might have been done to prevent it.

Steven Quither, procurator fiscal depute to the inquiry, told the court: “It will be about the run-up, if I can put it like that and what steps were taken to safeguard the life of the deceased.”

Mr Quither said the Crown had commissioned reports from a psychiatrist and a psychologist who had reviewed what had been done.

The court heard that lawyers were also reviewing a list of documents and possible witnesses compiled by Sophie’s family.

Gavin Anderson, counsel for the £13,000-a-year High School, said the school was trying to recover documents taken by Dundee City Council after Sophie’s death as part of the local authority’s own investigation.

Mr Anderson said Sophie’s pupil progress report and the independent school’s child protection file had not yet been returned by the council.

Sheriff Tom Hughes ordered a further preliminary hearing should be held on November 25th, to ensure all is ready for the evidential stage of the inquiry, which is expected to last five days.

He said: “This is a very tragic situation and a complex one.”

Mrs Moss said she was pleased the investigation had finally reached court.

She said: “I have a real mix of emotions today, but it’s a relief that the inquiry is finally starting.”

Mrs Moss has previously said earlier suicide attempts had been dismissed by the health board as “childish cries for help” and NHS Tayside’s Child and Adolescent Health Services had not provided enough support to her daughter.

She said she believed NHS Tayside’s risk assessments were “hugely inadequate”.

The investigation, at Dundee Sheriff Court, is being held after the Lord Advocate, ruled it should be held as Sophie’s death gives rise to “serious public concern”.

Sophie died in March 2014 at her family’s home in Liff on the outskirts of Dundee.

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