Review calls for apologies to Doncaster day centre abuse victims

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POLICE and prosecutors have apologised to disabled people who were abused at a South Yorkshire day centre and their familes for their six year wait for justice.

The chairman of the body responsible for overseeing the protection of adults in Doncaster has also apologised for not reviewing the case sooner.

Susan Murphy at Sheffield Crown Court. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Susan Murphy at Sheffield Crown Court. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

A serious case review of the abuse suffered by at least 18 users of the Solar Centre in Doncaster found that opportunities were missed in both 2007, when abuse allegations were first made, and again in 2011, when the case was reviewed, to bring prosecutions because of a mis-reading of the law.

James Hinds and Susan Murphy, who were care assistants at the Solar Centre, were finally convicted last year in relation to the ill-treatment of 12 outpatients and each sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.

Martin Goldman, chief prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: “We acknowledge that the convictions in this case took too long to secure, and again I offer my apologies to the victims and their families for this.

“But lessons have been learned and we have put a number of measures into place, including mandatory hate crime training for all our prosecutors.”

Convicted - Susan Murphy and James Hinds.

Convicted - Susan Murphy and James Hinds.

Detective chief inspector Nat Shaw, from South Yorkshire Police, said: “South Yorkshire Police accept that we added to the difficulties in 2007 in bringing this case before the courts and have sincerely apologised to the families of the victims for the delay in achieving justice for their loved ones.”

The review, written by expert Gill Poole, found that the Doncaster Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board took too long to commission a review into the case.

Her report said there was confusion over whether other inquiries could continued alongside the police investigation.

It was also critical of all the organisations involved who responded by focusing on “management, policy and processes.”

The report said the bodies involved “lost sight of the 19 individuals who were abused;m and the impact that the abuse and subsequent investigations have had on the victims and their families”.

Families told Ms Poole that they did not feel involved in the investigations into what had happened at the Solar Centre, a day centre for vulnerable people with multiple disabilities, and complained over a lack of communication.

Roger Thompson, chairman of the Doncaster Safeguarding Adults Partnership Board, offered his apology “for the amount of time it has taken to reach this point and for this report to be concluded.

“There are lessons to be learned from this case and agencies should have worked better together at the time.”

Following the serious case review, the Department of Health and the Home Office will be asked to clarify how investigations by the police and other bodies should proceed.

The Solar Centre case has also highlighted a gap in the way care for disabled people is inspected.

Because the centre offered day care it was not deemed to be a “regulated service” and was not overseen by the Healthcare Commission, which has since been abolished, or the Care Quality Commission which took on its responsibilities.