Care home briefing 169 – Latest care home abuse prosecution: Atlas Project Team

Company directors and senior managers were among 13 convicted in relation to the abuse of vulnerable residents at care homes in Devon.

The legal proceedings against the staff have been ongoing for a number of years, however reporting restrictions were in place until recently. Ten men and 14 women were prosecuted in Bristol Crown Court and faced a range of charges including conspiracy to detain, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

Atlas Project Team

Atlas Project Team Ltd ran the Veilstone and Gatooma homes in Holsworthy which provided care for residents with severe learning difficulties. In 2010 and 2011 residents were systematically detained in rooms known as the ‘garden room’ and the ‘quiet room’, for hours on end with little food or water, without heating or a toilet. This was thought to be carried out to control and/or punish residents.

Bristol Crown Court also heard evidence that residents were ordered to carry out tasks such as cleaning on release from the isolation rooms to test their compliance. The practices were brought to light when a resident contacted the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2011.

Trials and convictions

During the trials the directors and staff were accused of creating a culture where systematic neglect was the norm. At the time arrests were being made Devon and Cornwall Police commented that a clear message must be sent, that abuse and neglect would not be tolerated in our society and that anyone involved from front line staff to the boardroom would be held to account. This case sends that message, and is thought to be the first case in which directors and managers of the home, together with those who carried out the abusive practices have been convicted.

One of the directors, Jolyon Marshall, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to detain and imprison falsely, and perverting the course of justice. Mr Marshall had his custodial sentence increased to 28 months by the Court of Appeal.

Other employees received suspended custodial sentences and ordered to carry out unpaid work. The founder of the company, Paul Hewitt, was convicted of a failure to discharge a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act, despite informing the Court that he did not know residents were being locked up. Mr Hewitt was fined £12,500 and ordered to pay costs of £105,000.

The homes have been closed and the company is now in administration.

How care homes can reduce risks

The case underlines the fact that responsibility for service users’ well-being falls to management as well as those working in a home.

It may be that early whistleblowing and or complaints would have brought this to the attention of managers who could have dealt with this before the practices and culture became embedded. Proper oversight of day to day operations, including audit and monitoring are essential to reduce the possibility of incidences of malpractice. Delivery of effective safeguarding training for all staff is also of paramount importance.

For more information or guidance, please contact:

Andrew Parsons
Partner and Head of Healthcare – Providers
T. 020 7227 7282
E. andrew.parsons@rlb-law.com


Disclaimer

This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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