Couple jailed over appalling abuse of trust at care centre

Susan Murphy and below, James Hinds. Pictures: Ross Parry Agency
Susan Murphy and below, James Hinds. Pictures: Ross Parry Agency
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THE full scale of the abuse carried out by two care workers jailed for ill-treating vulnerable adults at a Yorkshire day care centre may never be known, victims’ families have claimed.

James Hinds, 59, and Susan Murphy, 43, were sentenced to 33 months each in prison for humiliating and abusing severely disabled patients at the Solar Centre in the grounds of a Doncaster hospital.

James Hinds

James Hinds

It took six years for the families of the victims to get justice after the Crown Prosecution Service twice threw the case out, while South Yorkshire Police have admitted they “added to the difficulties”.

After the pair were convicted last month, prosecutors said they were guilty of “an appalling abuse of trust and a violation of what society should be able to expect from people in the care profession”.

Hinds and Murphy were found guilty of a total of 25 counts relating to the ill-treatment of 12 different outpatients at the day centre for adults with learning disabilities at St Catherine’s Hospital. Two of their colleagues, care assistant Julie Burge and physiotherapy assistant Michael Barnard were acquitted of all charges following a month-long trial.

All of the victims are extremely vulnerable adults, with limited communication abilities and a range of physical disabilities, including blindness. Many of the attacks involved patients being slapped and hit around the head.

Hinds threw one man into a wheelchair, dragged another to the toilet and hit another with a microphone, while Murphy locked one woman in a cupboard. All the incidents happened between 2005 and 2007.

Jailing the pair, who have been in a relationship for seven years, at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday, Judge Rosalind Coe said their culpability was equal.

She told Hinds: “You were a dominant and domineering member of staff and organised things to suit your ideas of how it should be run. You used violence, rough treatment and intimidation.”

Victim impact statements read in court outlined how the families felt their trust in the centre had been breached. Valerie Kirsopp said her son Robert’s treatment had been “soul destroying” and the family’s life wrecked.

Sandra Mountain, whose daughter Carla, a wheelchair user with “profound and multiple disabilities”, was abused by Murphy, described the sentencing as a “great relief”.

But she added: “I feel the whole story still hasn’t come out and we may never know the full scale of the abuse that took place. There should be a full inquiry into where this case has gone wrong. How could the abuse carry on for so long, and why has it taken so long for it to come to court?”

The court heard Hinds and Murphy were attacked in their Doncaster home in 2010 by three masked vigilantes and forced to flee to Spain after the prosecution against them was dropped for the second time.

Iain Hillis, for Hinds, said staff levels were depleted when he worked there and he was the only full-time male on duty. He may have behaved “roughly and inappropriately” at times but he was not a “malicious, unkind man”.

Karen Tunnacliffe for mother-of-two Murphy, said she accepted she had abused a position of trust but she worked in a “noisy, stressful and difficult” environment” and the offences were committed “by a lady at the end of her tether”.