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Six jailed over care home abuse

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Eleven care workers in all appeared before Judge Neil Ford QC for sentencing in relation to varying different charges of ill treatment, abuse or wilful neglect.  Five of the eleven were given suspended sentences, however six were made subject to immediate custodial sentences following prosecutions arising from a BBC Panorama programme which uncovered the acts of abuse. 

The Judge said that there was a "culture of cruelty" at the home and that no attempt was made to provide a caring environment and had it not been for the BBC's programme the abuse would have continued.  He went onto say that the home had been "run with a scandalous lack of regard to patients and staff" and said that what happened amounted to "a gross breach of trust".  Wayne Rogers, 32, admitted nine counts of ill treating patients and was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.  Alison Dove, 25, received a sentence of 20 months imprisonment as did Graham Doyle, 26, following pleas of guilty to seven charges of abuse.

When sentencing Ms Dove the Judge said "you suggested it was borne of boredom during long shifts and that you had viewed patients as play things".  In addressing Doyle the Judge said "you are considered genuinely remorseful and haunted by guilt".  Holly Draper received a 12 month sentence of imprisonment having pleaded guilty to two charges of abuse and two nurses Sookalingum Appoo and Kelvin Fore both received sentences of 6 months imprisonment for wilful neglect.  The remaining five received suspended sentences together with orders to carry out unpaid work in the community.

The prosecution stated that care watchdog had failed to act on repeated warnings of what was described as inhuman, cruel and hate-fuelled treatment of patients.  "The so called restraint techniques were used to inflict pain, humiliate patients and bully them into compliance with the demands of their carers" said Kerry Barker prosecuting. 

Lawyers representing seventeen families of those abused say they are now pursuing compensation in civil action against the owners of Winterbourne View. 

One defendant Jason Gardiner stated outside court that he wanted to apologise for his actions and said "I take full responsibility for everything I have done.  It was a very difficult place to work, a tough place to work.  We were under-staffed and working 12 hour days without a break.  All I can do is apologise to everybody for what's happened". 

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said the responsibility for the abuse rested with the home's owners Castlebeck and the individual employees.  However CQC was heavily criticised after it had ignored attempts by whistleblower Terry Bryan to inform them of the abuse that was occurring. 

There have been calls for the owners of the home to be prosecuted and Prime Minister David Cameron has stated "if there needs to be further prosecutions then there should be".  He went onto say "we should judge our society by how we deal with the most vulnerable and needy people.  What happened was completely unacceptable". 

Mr Burstow who is a Senior Liberal Democrat and the former Care Minister said that companies should be brought to book if managers fail to notice abuse of residents in their care.  He told the BBC Today programme that "[companies] need to be corporately accountable as well as the staff.  We have corporate manslaughter on the statute books, there is a case for corporate wilful neglect as well".  He has also called for the abolition of long-term care homes where severely ill residents are placed for long periods of time.

Winterbourne View was closed in the wake of the scandal and BBC's Panorama received praise from the sentencing Judge for its investigation and for stopping what he described as "systematic abuse". 

The above is not legal advice, it is intended to provide information of general interest in current legal issues.