In the Media

Winterbourne View care home staff face cruelty sentences

PUBLISHED October 23, 2012

Almost a dozen former staff at Winterbourne View private hospital, near Bristol, subjected residents to such horrific actions it provoked changes in their behaviour.

An undercover journalist from the BBC's Panorama programme recorded some of the hospital's most vulnerable patients, who suffer from autism and learning difficulties, being abused by their carers.

The footage, played during a sentencing hearing for the 11 former staff members yesterday, showed them being slapped, soaked in water, trapped under chairs, taunted and having their hair pulled and eyes poked.

The shocking undercover video, originally broadcast in June last year, also showed the five frail and confused residents being verbally abused and pinned down.

The former staff have between them admitted 38 charges of either neglect or ill-treatment of people with severe learning difficulties and returned to Bristol Crown Court yesterday for the start of sentencing.

Whistleblower Terry Bryan, a former nurse at the home, approached to the BBC with his concerns after his complaints to Castlebeck and care watchdogs were ignored.

Journalist Joseph Carey recorded the footage during a five-week investigation in February and March last year.

The five residents, Simone Blake, Simon Tovey, Louise Bissett, Louisa Deville and Lorraine Guildford, had suffered greatly at the hand, the court heard.

Their behaviour has changed and they often inflict on others the abuse they received at Winterbourne View.

Kerry Barker, prosecuting, accused the Darlington-based Castlebeck Ltd, which owned the hospital, of ignoring the abuse because they were motivated by greed.

Castlebeck dismissed concerns raised by the patients or their relatives.

Mr Barker told the court: "From the investigations started by a BBC undercover reporter, Joseph Casey, and continued by the police and South Gloucestershire Council's Serious Case Review it became quite clear that Castlebeck and its senior managers had little or no interest in the care and welfare of the patients at Winterbourne View.

"The concerns of relatives of the patients detained in the hospital were ignored or brushed aside.

"Castlebeck's motivation was simply financial reward."

The court heard the 26-bed hospital opened in 2006 and by 2010 had a turnover of £3.7 million. The average weekly fee for a patient was £3,500.

Mr Barker said the hospital was registered with the Care Quality Commission to provide assessment, treatment and rehabilitation to adults with learning disabilities and autism.

"Sadly those agencies responsible for the inspection and oversight of what was happening to patients at Winterbourne View failed to fulfil their responsibilities despite numerous warnings and indicators of the inhumane, cruel and hate-fuelled treatment of those patients," he said.

Nine of the defendants were unregulated support workers, who were not subject of any code of conduct or minimum training standards.

"By turning a blind eye to what was going on, failing to keep proper records or to notify those outside agencies responsible for the supervision of the hospital and thus, say the Crown, conniving with the ill-treatment of patients, those two nurses were guilty of neglect of patients," Mr Barker said.

"In short, the culture of the hospital was one of bored, un-stimulated patients and staff corralled on the upper floor where the use of illegal physical restraints was commonplace.

"The so-called restraint techniques were used to inflict pain, humiliate patients and bully them into compliance with the demands of their carers."

He added: "Ill-treatment of patients for the main part went unrecorded and unreported. Where it was reported it was ignored by managers and senior staff.

"Patients who threatened to complain were often silenced by further bullying."

A Serious Case Review into the hospital, which closed in June last year, condemned Castlebeck for putting profits before care.

The damning independent report heavily criticised health regulators, police, social services and the NHS for failing to spot the warning signs about the abuse at Winterbourne View.

All defendants are currently on bail with the condition that they are not allowed to work or seek work with vulnerable people.

The hearing continues.

The 11 defendants are:

:: Michael Ezenagu, 29, of Shepherds Bush, west London, pleaded guilty to two counts of ill-treating Simone Blake. He denied two further of ill-treating the same patient and a third similar charge against Simon Tovey. The prosecution accepted the pleas and he did not face trial.

:: Graham Doyle, 26, pleaded guilty to seven charges of ill-treating Miss Blake. However, he denied charges of wilfully neglecting Lorraine Guilford and ill-treating Mr Tovey. The prosecution accepted the pleas and he did not face trial.

:: Jason Gardiner, 43, of Bristol, admitted two charges of ill-treating Louisa Deville and Mr Tovey.

:: Danny Brake, 27, of Fishponds, Bristol, also pleaded guilty to two charges of ill-treating Miss Blake and Mr Tovey.

:: Sookalingum Appoo, 59, of Bristol, admitted three charges of wilfully neglecting Miss Blake.

:: Wayne Rogers, 32, of Bristol, pleaded guilty to nine charges of ill-treating Louisa Deville, Mr Tovey and Miss Blake. He denied a charge of ill-treating Louise Bisset, which was accepted by the prosecution and he did not face trial.

:: Alison Dove, 25, of Bristol, pleaded guilty to seven charges of ill-treating Miss Guilford, Miss Bisset and Miss Blake. She pleaded not guilty to ill-treating Mr Tovey, which was accepted by the prosecution and she did not face trial.

:: Holly Draper, 24, Mangotsfield, Bristol, pleaded guilty to two charges of ill-treating Miss Blake.

:: Charlotte Cotterell, 22, of Yate, Bristol, pleaded guilty to one charge of ill-treating Miss Blake. She denied a second charge against the same victim, which was accepted by the prosecution and she did not face trial.

:: Neil Ferguson, 28, of Bristol, pleaded guilty to one count of ill-treating Miss Blake. He denied a second charge of ill-treating the same patient, which the prosecution accepted and he did not face trial.

:: Kelvin Fore, 33, of Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to one charge of wilfully neglecting Miss Blake but denied a second allegation against the same person, which was accepted by the prosecution and he did not face trial.