1. ITV Report

Four care workers mistreated dementia sufferers 'for sport'

A sign at Hillcroft Nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest, Lancaster. Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Four care workers have been sentenced after taking part in the "gratuitous sport" of abusing elderly dementia sufferers at a nursing home.

"Weak and inadequate" management at Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest, Lancaster, led to victims being mocked, bullied and tormented because they would have no memory of the mistreatment, a judge said.

The vulnerable victims were pelted with bean bags, stamped on deliberately and one man was nearly tipped out of his wheelchair for the "entertainment" of four care workers.

ITV News Correspondent Damon Green reports:

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 of a person who lacks capacity after a four week trial.

Darren Smith, 35, from Lancaster, admitted ahead of the trial eight counts of ill-treatment in which he threw bean bags or balls at eight residents.

In sentencing, Judge Michael Byrne said the offences were "an indictment" on Hillcroft nursing home management.

A general view of Hillcroft nursing home in Slyne-with-Hest, Lancaster. Credit: PA

Much evidence in the trial revealed that 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.

A lack of proper management allowed a culture to develop where conduct of this sort was allowed to carry on.

Some of the offences were gratuitous sport at the expense of of vulnerable victims. Each of these defendants broke the trust placed in them.

– JUDGE MICHAEL BYRNE

The sentences that the four care workers received

  • Darren Smith sentenced to eight months in prison for badly treating dementia sufferers.
  • Carol Ann Moore was jailed for four months.
  • Katie Cairns was sentenced to five months in prison.
  • Gemma Pearson was given a 12 month community order with supervision and told to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work.

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.

Chris Haywood, whose father Ken was abused in the nursing home, told ITV News it was "harrowing" being told that his relative was mistreated.

Ken, who died two years ago, was stamped on the foot by his carer Cairns.

Mr Haywood told ITV News' Damon Green that the heroes in this case were the whistleblowers at the home who alerted the authorities to the abuse taking place in Hillcroft.

A joint statement from the families of the victims said that they took no pleasure from today's outcome and that they were still "waiting to receive formal apologies" from the perpetrators.

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.

– JOINT STATEMENT FROM FAMILIES OF HILLCROFT NURSING HOME VICTIMS

They also added that it "disappointed" them that Gemma Pearson would not serve jail time her role in the abuse at the care home.

Lancashire constabulary said the four care workers showed a "complete disregard" for the dementia sufferers welfare and that their behaviour was "utterly contemptible".

Darren Smith, Katie Cairns, Gemma Pearson and Carol Moore showed complete disregard for the well-being 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.

– DETECTIVE CHIEF INSPECTOR ANDY HULME, OF LANCASHIRE CONSTABULARY

What the four care workers were sentenced for

Carol Moore - The care team leader was found guilty of one count in which she struck a resident on the unit for people with "challenging behaviour".

The court heard she walked up to the victim and slapped him after a complaint was made from the man's wife about a lack of activities at the home.

Carol Moore, 54. Credit: Lancashire Police

Darren Smith - The 35-year-old admitted eight counts of ill-treatment in which he threw bean bags or balls at eight residents.

Darren Smith, 35. Credit: Lancashire Police

Katie Cairns - She was convicted of three charges including stamping on a victim's foot, throwing bean bags at another male and mocking another.

Katie Cairns, 27. Credit: Lancashire Police

Gemma Pearson - She was convicted of attempting to tip a resident out of his wheelchair and was told that if she had succeeded, she would have been sent to jail.

Gemma Pearson, 28. Credit: Lancashire Police