NHS pays compensation to families of 19 adults abused at Bristol care centre

Winterbourne View in Bristol was owned by some of Ireland’s wealthiest businessmen

The National Health Service in England has paid compensation to the families of 19 vulnerable adults who were abused at a care centre owned by some of Ireland's wealthiest businessmen.

The compensation case was taken against the NHS because the company, Castlebeck, went into administration earlier this year, owing several hundreds of millions to banks.

Eleven former staff at Castlebeck's Bristol centre, Winterbourne View, were prosecuted after an undercover BBC Panorama journalist secretly filmed them restraining patients, dousing some with water and subjecting them to cruel mockery.

Six of the staff were jailed, which led the owners, who include Denis Brosnan, JP McManus, John Magnier, Dermot Desmond and others, to order a root-and-branch reform of the company before it was put into administration.


“The NHS must make sure it is delivering dignified and safe care. The horrific scenes exposed by the BBC at Winterbourne View shocked the whole country. While we do not accept legal liability in these cases, it is right we have settled these claims,” the NHS said.

However, the settlements do not end legal actions over Winterbourne View, the families' solicitor, Andrew Hannan, told The Irish Times, adding the six worst cases have yet to be agreed.

These, he said, are seeking “general and special damages” to compensate for continuing problems due to the abuse. The 19 have received general damages only.

Winterbourne View was closed after the scandal broke. Its 24 residents, most with special learning difficulties, were relocated. Castlebeck was paid up to £3,500-a-week to care for them.

'Modest' sums
One lawyer, Alison Millar, who represented two of the victims, said the sums accepted are "modest", although the details are subject to a confidentiality agreement and cannot be disclosed.

“The civil law system is woefully deficient when it comes to determining what is fair compensation for vulnerable people . . .

“It is impossible to translate their experiences into the types of financial losses you would normally recover for someone with capacity . . .” she told a local newspaper.

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is News Editor of the The Irish Times