Thirteen people have been convicted after an inquiry into organised and systemic abuse at two Devon care homes for adults with learning disabilities.
Four company directors and nine employees have been sentenced in relation to the abuse of vulnerable residents at care homes in Devon. Atlas Project Team Limited ran the Veilstone and Gatooma homes in Holsworthy, providing care for residents with significant learning disabilities.
During 2010 and 2011, residents were repeatedly and systematically detained in seclusion rooms which had no heating or toilet facilities, and little or no furniture, sometimes for several hours at a time or even overnight.
From an early stage, prosecutors worked closely with Devon and Cornwall Police to analyse thousands of incident records and interviews with former members of staff. Through this work, a pattern was established which demonstrated that staff had used excessive and inappropriate seclusion as a result of training given to them by senior figures in the company. This allowed the CPS to authorise charges against the directors of Atlas, along with the staff who were directly involved in the abuse.
One of the directors, Jolyon Marshall, was also convicted of perverting the course of justice. The CPS states that Marshall encouraged one of the residents of Veilstone to run away and, along with two of his staff, made a false complaint of criminal damage against the man so as to have him arrested and removed from the home.
Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, welcomed the sentences handed down by the court. She said, 'Atlas and a large number of their staff utterly failed in their duty to look after the people in their care. No-one should be subject to the degrading abuse people experienced and I am glad that the perpetrators have been recognised for the criminals they are.
'When CQC inspected Veilstone in October 2011, inspectors were so concerned by the treatment they discovered that they quickly extended the inspection to all 15 of the services run by Atlas. We found serious concerns in most of their care homes, including the routine use of excessive restrictive practices which is why we took action which led to the closure of all of these services in 2012.
'Much has changed since 2011. When these abusive practices were discovered, CQC took decisive action but we should have responded more quickly to the concerns raised earlier by someone using the service. Since then we have overhauled our regulatory approach; improved the monitoring of services and the way we respond to safeguarding concerns; introduced a new and more thorough inspection process; increased the numbers of people with learning disabilities involved in our inspections; and strengthened our enforcement processes. We have also worked with The Challenging Behaviour Foundation on the issue of restraint and we now subject services where staff frequently resort to restrictive interventions to much tougher scrutiny than we did five years ago.
'The end of these trials is a chilling reminder that we must all remain vigilant to support and protect people in vulnerable circumstances who have every right to live their lives to the full, free from fear and treated with dignity and respect.'