Darren Smith, 35, of Howgill Avenue, Lancaster was sentenced to eight months today (Friday 10 January 2014) at Preston Crown Court.
He pleaded guilty to eight offences of being a carer involved in the ill treatment of a person with lack of capacity contrary to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in August last year.
Katie Cairns, Gemma Pearson and Carol Moore were all found guilty of offences under the same Act following a trial at Preston Crown Court in November.
Cairns, 27, of Riverview Court, Morecambe, was sentenced to five months after being found guilty of three offences.
Moore, 54, of Ripon Avenue, Lancaster, who was also found guilty of one offence, was sentenced to four months.
Pearson, 28, of Hill Street, Carnforth, who was convicted of one offence, was made the subject of a 12 month community order and a 12 month supervision requirement. She is also required to carry out 40 hours unpaid work in the community.
In May 2012, Lancashire County Council Adult Services Social Care department made police aware of a complaint they had received about the level of care provided to some residents at the Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with –Hest.
A multi-agency investigation into the alleged mistreatment of residents at the home immediately began and following a complex enquiry Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson, who were all employed as carers, were charged with the offences under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Hulme said: “Darren Smith, Katie Cairns, Gemma Pearson and Carol Moore showed complete disregard for the wellbeing of the people they had been entrusted to care for. Further to that, their ill treatment was directed at some of the most vulnerable members of our community; these people couldn’t speak out or defend themselves.
"Their behaviour was utterly contemptible and I can only hope they will now reflect on their actions and see just how cowardly their conduct was.
“I would once again like to take this opportunity to commend those members of staff who displayed great courage and decency in speaking out against this despicable behaviour. This couldn’t have been an easy thing for them to do, but what I must emphasise is the families’ gratitude towards them for coming forward.
“I would also like to praise the families of the victims. They trusted these people to care for their relatives and treat them with courtesy and respect. To learn that they failed in their professional duty to do so must have been extremely distressing, yet they have conducted themselves with great dignity throughout. Having listened to the families, I know that they are still struggling to come to terms with the terrible acts inflicted upon their loved ones. I can only try to understand what an incredibly difficult period this has been for those affected, but I sincerely hope that these sentences provide an element of closure for all of the families concerned.
“The safety and wellbeing of all residents being cared for by the Hillcroft Group was of paramount importance and has always been a priority. Lancashire Constabulary continues to work closely with Lancashire County Council, CQC (Care Quality Commission) and NHS North Lancashire and is confident that all appropriate safeguards are in place.
“A multi-agency learning review has also been commissioned to ensure that any lessons learnt will be fully explored and all recommendations will be addressed accordingly. The review, which has been running parallel to the investigation and judicial proceedings, aims to ensure better protection for vulnerable adults in residential care.
“I don’t believe that the behaviour shown by Smith, Cairns, Pearson and Moore is a true reflection of the majority of staff at Hillcroft. and I am satisfied that the care home in Slyne-with-Hest, is now a completely different environment, with the quality of care afforded to all residents, being carefully managed and monitored.”
Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate for CPS North West Complex Casework Unit, said: “Darren Smith, Katie Cairns, Carol Moore and Gemma Pearson have today been sentenced for the appalling offences they committed against elderly and vulnerable victims they were supposed to be caring for.
“The CPS takes all instances of abuse against older people extremely seriously, and we have been determined to bring these defendants to justice for their crimes. We are committed to prosecuting crimes against older people and protecting the vulnerable, and where there is evidence of abuse or ill treatment, the perpetrators of that abuse can expect to be brought before the courts and prosecuted robustly.
“I would once again like to thank the witnesses who came forward and supported the prosecution case and I would also like to pay tribute to the victims’ families. Although no sentence can compensate for the hurt and distress caused by the actions of these defendants, I hope that today’s sentencing offers them some sense of closure following what has been an extremely distressing time for them.”
A statement has also been issue on behalf of the families, which is as follows:
Because of their illnesses, we do not know how the victims feel about what happened to them, but we do our best to speak on their behalf.
The guilty pleas and verdicts provided final confirmation that our relatives had been the victims of abuse at Hillcroft and this saddened us greatly. The investigation and court case have been extremely distressing for us all and we do not take any pleasure in the outcome.
There are lessons to be learnt from this case and we are contributing to the ongoing Learning Review, which we hope will provide meaningful recommendations and result in changes to the law.
In the first instance, managers at the home covered up the initial allegations and did not involve the safeguarding authorities when they should have. The Directors and management of Hillcroft failed in their basic duty to ensure safe care for residents. We do not feel that the CQC have held Hillcroft properly to account for these failings.
Secondly, following the first contact from whistle-blowers, it took an unacceptable length of time for the authorities to involve the police and we hope that those responsible canreflect on the consequences of their inaction and make changes accordingly.
We are still waiting to receive formal apologies from Moore, Cairns and Pearson, from Lancashire County Council and from the Directors of Hillcroft.
Smith, Moore and Cairns have received custodial sentences and we hope that this sends out a clear message that this type of crime will not be tolerated, however it disappoints us that Pearson will not serve time in prison for the crime she committed. Smith, Moore, Cairns and Pearson will never able to work in care again.
Once again, our thanks go to those who persevered in reporting these crimes andto Lancashire Police and the CPS for their hard work in achieving successful prosecutions.