Halifax man in court accused of manslaughter

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A young woman collapsed after taking heroin and died when her mother and the man who supplied her with the drug failed to get her medical help, a jury was told.

Paramedics found the body of Natasha Johnson, 21, already cold on a makeshift sofa of two chairs pushed together at her mother’s flat in Market Way, Scarborough on the morning of May 23, 2013.

Simon Phillips QC prosecuting told Leeds Crown Court yesterday (Monday) there was evidence of drug use in the flat and Miss Johnson, who was not an addict, had taken heroin the previous evening.

“It had an immediate and severe effect upon her. She collapsed and struggled to breath,” he said. “At the time of her collapse two people were with her in the flat, her mother Claire Johnson and Daniel Kedge.”

Mr Phillips said Kedge had supplied Miss Johnson with the heroin she took after he bought £50 worth earlier that day and used some to inject himself.

He realised what had happened to her, telling police later that he had seen people before who had overdosed or semi-overdosed.

He said he had put her in the recovery position and tried mouth to mouth over a period of time but she was drowsy and struggling to breath.

He told police he discussed with Claire Johnson about getting an ambulance, at one stage he said they should and at another her mother said the same, but then they talked themselves out of it.

Mr Phillips said that situation lasted more than an hour before Kedge left the flat because he had promised his parents he would be home at a certain hour. He bought more heroin for himself on the way and then watched television until the early hours.

He said he had told Claire Johnson if her daughter remained in the same state or got worse she should call for help and that she had probably deferred to him. “I should have done it myself there and then,” he conceded to officers.

It was not known what time during the night she had died. A pathologist found the cause of death was central nervous system depression caused by heroin toxicity enhanced by alcohol and Diazepam.

Kedge was present when Miss Johnson had taken tablets and been drinking prior to her taking the heroin. He was arrested the next day at his address in Westwood for supplying the drug.

Kedge, 41, now of Carlton Terrace, Halifax, denies the manslaughter of Miss Johnson. The jury has heard Claire Johnson has admitted the offence.

Mr Phillips said it was the crown’s case leaving her in that overdosed state without getting her help was grossly negligent.

He told the jury a medical expert would describe how when the breathing slows a person can be deprived of oxygen and the speed of getting medical help increases the chances of survival.

Mr Phillips said the jury would have to decide if Kedge owed a duty of care to Miss Johnson to take reasonable steps to get her medical care since he had supplied her with the heroin she took and realised she was overdosing.

Secondly if he did owe such a duty had he breached his duty, third was that breach a significant cause of her death because “medical intervention should have been sought urgently when she became drowsy and non-responsive.”

Finally he said could that breach of duty in getting her medical help be described as gross negligence amounting to a criminal offence of manslaughter.