Six former staff at Irish-owned British hospital jailed

Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 01:00

A BRITISH hospital owned by wealthy Irish investors where patients suffered cruel and debased treatment was run with a “scandalous lack of regard”, a judge declared yesterday.

Jailing six former staff of the Winterbourne View hospital in Bristol, Judge Neil Ford said the hospital owned by Castlebeck Ltd had been operated purely for profit.

Castlebeck is controlled by Lydian Capital, a company set up by former Kerry Group chief executive Denis Brosnan and owned with JP McManus, Dermot Desmond and John Magnier.

The six staff were jailed for up to two years, while five more were given suspended sentences for abuse, which included patients being slapped, soaked in water, trapped under chairs and mocked.

Staff were poorly trained to deal with “extremely difficult to manage” patients, while complaints to Winterbourne and Castlebeck were “swept under the carpet”, the judge told Bristol Crown Court.

The hospital, which charged the National Health Service £3,500 (€4,356) a week per patient, has since been closed, as have a number of others in the chain.

Crown Prosecution Service official Ann Reddrop said the patients had the right “to live free from intimidation and fear”, but, instead, had been treated “in an appalling and systematically brutal way”.

Saying that “a culture of ill-treatment” had developed at Winterbourne, the judge said “cruelty bred cruelty”, debasing and corrupting the defendants.

“The hospital’s purported aim of assisting the residents so that they might return to homes in the community was cynically disregarded,” he told the court.

Lawyers for 17 of the patients, who were moved to other homes after the abuse was revealed by the BBC Panorama TV programme last year, are to sue Castlebeck for civil damages.

One of the workers, Jason Gardiner, who was given a suspended sentence after admitting two charges of abuse, apologised outside of court: “I take full responsibility for everything I have done,” he said.

Winterbourne had been “a very difficult place to work”, he said. “We were understaffed and working 12-hour days without a break. All I can do is apologise to everybody for what happened.”