Thirteen people have been convicted following a court case that exposed "organised and systemic" abuse at two care homes for adults with learning disabilities in Vielstone near Bideford, in Devon. The court heard that the residents were routinely punished by being held in empty rooms without food, heating or a toilet, often overnight, as an abusive culture developed. Securicare reveals the extent of the crimes.

Care home convictionsDuring the trials, the directors and staff were accused of creating a culture whereby residents were left in the rooms more than 1,000 times with no furniture or a television for hours at a time.

Prosecutor Andrew Langdon QC said staff tried to correct residents' behaviour as if they would train an animal. "It was not a one-off but organised and systemic abuse of people with learning disabilities - vulnerable members of society who were residents in homes that were meant to care for them."

The timeline of events:

  • 1993: Paul Hewitt starts building care homes as the director of firm Atlas Project team
  • 2004: Gatooma care home opens with capacity for five residents. Hewitt was named as the responsible person
  • 2011: CQC inquiry launched after a tip-off from a whistleblower
  • 2012: All 15 Atlas care homes closed by CQC
  • 25 May 2016: Hewitt cleared by a jury of conspiracy to falsely imprison residents but guilty of a health and safety offence. Four other staff cleared
  • July 2016: Four workers found guilty of false imprisonment at second trial
  • 14 October 2016: Jolyon Marshall sentenced to 18 months for conspiracy to falsely imprison residents and perverting the course of justice after pleading guilty. Five other staff sentenced after guilty pleas
  • 8 December 2016: Marshall's sentence is increased to 28 months by Court of Appeal
  • July 2016: Four other workers found guilty of false imprisonment charges at second trial. One found not guilty
  • 13 December 2016: the Third trial ends - two workers are found guilty of one charge each of false imprisonment. Four others found not guilty

Ten men and 14 women were prosecuted during four trials at Bristol Crown Court, which can now be reported.

  • Paul Hewitt, 71, director: convicted of failure to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Found not guilty of conspiracy to detain and imprison falsely. He was fined £12,500 and ordered to pay costs of £105,000.
  • Jolyon Marshall, 42, director: Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to detain and imprison falsely and perverting the course of justice. Jailed for a total of 18 months. This was later increased to 28 months' imprisonment by the Court of Appeal.
  • Rachel Marshall, 32, trainee manager: Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to detain and imprison falsely. She received eight months' imprisonment, suspended for two years.
  • Timothy Stevens, 46, director: Pleaded guilty to conspiracy to detain and imprison falsely. He received 10 months ' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and was also ordered to carry out 150 hours' unpaid work.
  • Victoria Cobbett, 27, deputy manager: Pleaded guilty to two charges of false imprisonment. She received a four-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.
  • Timothy Berry, 26, care worker: Pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. He received a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to carry out 100 hours' unpaid work.
  • Lisa Pluckrose, 47, care worker: Pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice. She received a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and was ordered to carry out 60 hours' unpaid work.
  • James Lawson, 42, care worker: Found not guilty of one charge of false imprisonment on the direction of the judge. A jury found him not guilty of two charges and was unable to reach verdicts on a further five counts. No evidence offered by the prosecution, judge recorded not guilty verdicts.
  • Aaron Jones, 34, care worker: The jury was unable to reach verdicts on three charges of false imprisonment. No evidence offered, not guilty verdicts recorded by the judge.
  • Julie Barlow, 53, trainee manager: Found not guilty of two charges of false imprisonment. The jury was unable to reach a verdict of a further count. No evidence offered, not guilty verdict recorded by the judge.
  • Lee Farrant, 31, trainee manager: Found not guilty of three charges of false imprisonment on the direction of the judge. A jury acquitted him of two further counts but could not reach a verdict on a further charge. No evidence offered by the prosecution and the judge recorded a not guilty verdict.
  • Natasha Stapleton, 42: Found guilty of three charges of false imprisonment. She received a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
  • Christine Kent, 58: Found guilty of two charges of false imprisonment. She received a four-month prison sentence, suspended for one year.
  • Alison Palmer, 43: Found guilty of one charge of false imprisonment. She received a conditional discharge for two years.
  • Sarah Eke, 43: Found guilty of one charge of false imprisonment. She received a conditional discharge for two years.
  • Dawn Bond, 48: She was found not guilty of three charges of false imprisonment on the direction of the judge.
  • Simon Beechy, 41: Found not guilty of three charges of false imprisonment.
  • Camilla Cameron, 26: Found not guilty of two charges of false imprisonment.
  • Lucy Cawsey, 28: Found not guilty of three charges of false imprisonment.
  • Samantha Honey, 28: Found guilty of one charge of false imprisonment and acquitted of a further two charges. She received a conditional discharge for 12 months.
  • Chloe Massey-Caines, 28: Found guilty of one charge of false imprisonment and acquitted of a further two charges. She received a conditional discharge for 12 months.
  • Mark Pilbrow, 38: Found not guilty of three charges of false imprisonment.
  • Russell Hewitt, 43: Found not guilty of failure to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act and false imprisonment.
  • Emma Turner, 30: Found not guilty of two charges of false imprisonment. The pair were also found not guilty of two joint charges of false imprisonment.

Chris Knight, Head of Social Care training for Securicare commented on a previous abuse case saying the following, “This case highlights one of the prevailing risks within social care, namely recruitment. It follows on from Winterbourne View where individuals who don't possess the requisite empathy and sensitivity get jobs in the sector. I would urge employers to be more critical when employing new staff. You owe it to your service users and patients. What’s more it makes good business sense. If you are delivering high-quality care more placements will follow on..”

“If you have staff with the right temperament and attitude towards the job then any training you provide will pay dividends too. Whether it’s induction care courses,  preventing and managing Challenging behaviour training courses, ‘Breakaway Training courses’ or Physical intervention training courses. The knowledge and skills provided will be embraced and applied with care... Something that is sadly lacking in this tragic case…”

Contact us for more information and to discuss your training needs: E: trainers@securicare.com or T: 01904 492442

For the full article go to BBC NEWS