TWO care assistants have been found guilty of mistreating severely disabled patients in their care in South Yorkshire.
A jury at Sheffield Crown Court heard that people attending the Solar Centre at St Catherine’s Hospital in Doncaster were abused and tormented by James Hinds and Susan Murphy.
Hinds, 59, was found guilty of 10 counts of ill-treating patients and Murphy, 43, was found guilty of 15 counts.
Another care assistant, Julie Burge, 48, was cleared of all charges she faced.
Physiotherapy assistant Michael Barnard was also acquitted of all charges.
Hinds and Murphy will be sentenced next month.
Judge Rosalind Coe told the two who were convicted they will be sentenced on June 14.
She said: “You are both fully aware that custodial sentences are the likely outcome.”
Hinds was acquitted of nine further charges and Murphy was cleared of five further charges after the jury of five men and seven women deliberated for two days.
The verdicts came after a month-long trial.
Both were given conditional bail but were remanded in custody until their passports could be brought to the court and surrendered after the judge heard they had been living in Spain.
Hinds and Murphy were found guilty of ill-treating 12 different outpatients between them at the centre.
All 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.
Murphy locked one woman in a cupboard, the court heard.
Prosecutor Sarah Wright told the court at the beginning of the trial: “James Hinds also smacked Michael Kime around the face and head after Michael Kime had hit out at him.
“He pulled him up by his hair and dragged him across the floor.
“Michael Kime is another service user who seemed afraid of James Hinds.”
Miss Wright told the jury that Hinds would regularly grab the cheeks of Robert Kirsopp and slap him.
Mr Kirsopp, who is in his 40s, has Down’s syndrome, autism and dementia.
The court heard that Hinds also pricked Mr Kirsopp with a needle during a Christmas stocking-making session.
All the incidents happened in a period between January 2005 and March 2007.
Miss Wright told the jury the patients at the Solar Centre exhibited a range of challenging behaviour and had severe problems.
She said: “They were vulnerable and not able to stand up to those who abused them.”
The prosecutor said a number of patients suffered “physical assaults, threats, improper handling and degrading treatment”.
Miss Wright said Hinds and Murphy created an atmosphere at the centre which was intimidatory.
She said Hinds in particular was a “very dominant character who came across as a bully” and who talked about “sorting them out” in relation to the patients.
The police were called in after one member of staff decided to leave in March 2007 and made formal allegations about the mistreatment of patients.
The Solar Centre is run by Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH).
Outside court, Dr Nav Ahluwalia, executive medical director for RDaSH said: “We fully apologised to service users and their families at the time of the incidents and we apologise again today for the actions of the individuals that have been found guilty.
“The trust took immediate action as soon as we were made aware of the situation in 2007 and worked with South Yorkshire Police in their investigation into this matter.
“The trust has implemented improvements to the learning disability service at this centre to minimise the risks of such incidents happening again.
“We will not tolerate staff mistreating service users and have reinforced our channels of communication to ensure that staff, service users and carers report suspected abuse so that we can take action.”
Dr Ahluwalia added: “We have a number of ongoing civil claims, which are confidential, and so the trust is not making any further comments.”
Detective Chief Inspector Natalie Shaw, who led the South Yorkshire Police investigation, said: “This has been an extremely difficult and emotional time for the victims and their families.
“It has been a lengthy and complex case and South Yorkshire Police accept we have added to the difficulties in bringing this case before the courts.
“However, on recognising this, we have since worked tirelessly with the families and the Crown Prosecution Service to progress the investigation, with a dedicated team of officers collating as much information and evidence as possible and utilising all the legislation and powers available to build a stronger case, which has now successfully led to a prosecution.
“I am pleased we have finally been able to hold those responsible to account and hope this result will bring closure for the victims and their families and they can try to move forward with their lives.”