Elderly patients with dementia were abused for 'sport' -- judge
Published 11/01/2014 | 02:30
"WEAK" and "inadequate" management led to the "gratuitous sport" of mistreatment of elderly dementia sufferers at a nursing home, a judge has said.
Residents at Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest, Lancaster, England, were mocked, bullied and tormented because they would have no memory of the abuse.
One man had his foot stamped on and another was nearly tipped out of his wheelchair. The vulnerable victims were also pelted with bean bags and balls were thrown at their heads "for entertainment".
In November, Carol Ann Moore (54), Katie Cairns (27), and Gemma Pearson (28) were found guilty by a jury at Preston Crown Court of ill-treatment or neglect of a person who lacks capacity under the Mental Capacity Act.
Moore, the care team leader, was found guilty of one count in which she struck a resident on the unit for residents with "challenging behaviour". The court heard that she walked up to the male victim and slapped him after a complaint had been made by the man's wife about a lack of activities at the home.
Cairns was convicted of three charges including stamping on a man's foot, throwing bean bags at another man and mocking another.
Pearson, of Carnforth, was also convicted of attempting to tip another resident out of his wheelchair.
Darren Smith (35) had admitted ahead of the trial eight counts of ill-treatment, in which he threw bean bags or balls at eight residents.
All the offences spanned from May 2010 to September 2011 and related to seven men and one woman, all aged in their 70s or 80s, with the eldest aged 85.
Sentencing them, Judge Michael Byrne said: "There was, at the relevant times, a lax regime, with weak and inadequate management on the unit, which allowed the kind of conduct to carry on undetected and without proper and adequate control."
He continued: "Some of the offences were gratuitous sport at the expense of vulnerable victims. Each of these defendants broke the trust placed in them."
Moore was jailed for four months. Cairns was jailed for five months and Smith got eight months. Pearson was given a 12-month community order with supervision and told to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work.
Following the convictions, the families of the victims said there had been failings by the owners and management of Hillcroft, Lancashire County Council Adult Services, NHS Lancashire and the Care Quality Commission.
They spoke of their heartbreak and anger in victim-impact statements read to the court.
One son of a victim chose to enter the witness box to give his statement in person.
Michael Rowlinson said his family's decision to place his father, Norman, a retired chartered surveyor, into care was the "worst day of our lives".
He said that decision had not been taken lightly because his father, married for 57 years, had Alzheimer's and was unable to give his opinion.
He said: "We had feelings of guilt for not being able to look after him. Our feelings of guilt only worsened when we found out that Dad had been subjected to humiliation and ill-treatment by those who were trusted to care for him.
"We feel angry this could have been allowed to happen to Dad and sorry that Mum had to learn about it."
He asked for the sentences to reflect the crimes committed against "vulnerable people who could not stand up for themselves" and asked: "What sort of human being treats another with such disrespect?"