Winterbourne View care home scandal - families demand action
The families of the victims of the Winterbourne View care home scandal have demanded the Government ensures that nothing like the abuse exposed by BBC’s Panorama programme can happen again.
They said they hoped that ministers would “seize this unique opportunity with both hands” to make changes.
The call came as 11 members of staff at the private hospital, in Hambrook, near Bristol, were sentenced for their roles in the “gross breach of trust and power” against vulnerable adults supposedly in their care. A judge at Bristol Crown Court jailed six of the workers – including two nurses – immediately, with the five others receiving suspended prison terms. Beverley Dawkins, of Mencap, spoke on behalf of the families and said: “We sincerely hope that the Government will seize this unique opportunity with both hands to actually enforce existing policy and enshrine some of those changes in law.
“In the 21st century, places like Winterbourne View should not exist, they should be closed and more local services developed.”
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Care and support minister Norman Lamb pledged to publish the Government’s report into the scandal very soon.
“It has shone a light on major flaws in the system,” he said. “I want this case to reinforce to everyone, from frontline workers, to regulators, managers and board members, that they have a shared responsibility in preventing abuse of the vulnerable.”
One of the care workers, Jason Gardiner, apologised for his behaviour as he left court.
“At the time it was misguided, I was trying to do the right thing and I ended up doing wrong and I would apologise for that,” he said.
“All I can do is apologise to everybody for what happened and I really never meant any harm to anybody and that is heartfelt.”
The owners of Winterbourne View, Darlington-based Castlebeck Ltd, said huge changes had taken place within the company since the abuse was exposed. Avon and Somerset Police said they are continuing to investigate other possible cases of residents being abused. at the hands of staff at the hospital. Support workers Wayne Rogers, Alison Dove, Graham Doyle, Jason Gardiner, Michael Ezenagu, Danny Brake, Charlotte Cotterell, Holly Draper and Neil Ferguson were caught out in a sting by a reporter with a hidden camera posing as a carer. Nurses Sookalingum Appoo and Kelvin Fore were filmed condoning the abuse by failing to stop it.
Journalist Joseph Casey had got a job at Winterbourne View after whistleblower Terry Bryan, a former nurse at the home, went to the BBC after his complaints to Castlebeck and care watchdogs were ignored. His shocking footage showed residents being slapped, soaked in water, trapped under chairs, taunted, sworn at and having their hair pulled, eyes poked and being illegally restrained.
On one shocking occasion three support workers forcibly held down a resident while a nurse forced paracetamol into her mouth.
Five residents, Simone Blake, Simon Tovey, Louise Bissett, Louisa Deville and Lorraine Guildford, suffered greatly at the hands of the defendants.
Among the hours of graphic footage played to the court was support worker Rogers telling Miss Blake: “Do you want me to get a cheese grater and grate your face off?
“Do you want me to turn you into a giant pepperoni?”
He also slapped Mr Tovey across the cheek and told him: “Do you want a scrap? Do you want a fight? Go on and I will bite your bloody face off.”
Colleague Dove said Miss Blake “loved pain” and then told her: “Simone, come here and I’ll punch your face.”
Dove also threatened Miss Bissett when she broke a window in the lounge with a chair.
She snarled at her: “Listen, in future I’m going to let you sit on the ******* floor, cos you don’t deserve a chair.”
On another occasion, Dove, Doyle and Draper restrained Miss Blake as Appoo forced paracetamol into her mouth.
Later during the same shocking incident Doyle put on a mock-German accent and, mimicking a Nazi guard, slapped her over the head with his gloves, shouting: “Nein, nein, nein, nein.”
Barristers representing the 11 defendants apologised on behalf of their clients but blamed the culture of Castlebeck – calling it a “disease”, a “cancer” and a “fog” that had engulfed Winterbourne View.
A serious case review published in August criticised the firm for putting profits before humanity.
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.
The court was packed with members of the victims’ families and journalists to see Judge Neil Ford QC, the Recorder of Bristol, pass sentence on the 11.
The judge condemned Castlebeck Ltd for the way Winterbourne View was run.
“It is common ground in this case that the hospital was run with a view to profit and with a scandalous lack of regard to the interests of its residents and staff,” he said. “A culture of ill-treatment developed and as is often the case, cruelty bred cruelty. This culture corrupted and debased, to varying degrees, these defendants, all of whom are of previous good character.
“The hospital’s purported aim of assisting the residents so that they might return to homes in the community was cynically disregarded.”
The judge told the defendants: “These offences constituted a gross breach of trust and power.”“Your victims were particularly vulnerable and have been significantly affected by your acts of abuse in the context of a regime of continuing abuse and on occasions you offended as part of a group.”
The former staff admitted 38 charges of either neglect or ill-treatment of people with severe learning difficulties.