Nothern Ireland’s Human Rights Commission has contracted a disgraced former nurse — struck off for cruelty to elderly patients — to provide business advice, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The commission has been criticised for employing Lynn Sheridan (48), who was struck off as a nurse in 1996 after being found guilty of professional misconduct, which included hitting residents in a Donaghadee nursing home.
Last night, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Commission said they were completely unaware of Sheridan’s background and said she was contracted from an outside company to advise them on employment law.
When informed by the Belfast Telegraph of Sheridan’s past the commission described the situation as “clearly very disturbing”.
Lynn Sheridan was investigated by the UK Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting in 1996 when she ran the Dunluce Residential Home in Donaghadee.
A series of charges against her were proven, which included smacking one elderly female resident and making her stand in a corner, striking another resident a number of times in the face and making a resident stand naked in the corner of her bedroom.
She denied all the charges.
The Human Rights Commission was set up after the Good Friday Agreement to ensure the rights of everyone in Northern Ireland are firmly protected.
The NIHRC is conducting an investigation into the rights of older people living in residential homes, but said Sheridan had not been involved in that process.
On Tuesday Sheridan, accompanied by Virginia McVea, the NIHRC’s director, took part in a talk to staff to outline possible redundancies.
A spokeswoman said: “The Human Rights Commission has a contract with Manchester-based firm Peninsula. This contract provides the Commission with employment law advice. We have been engaging with the company as we work through the 25% cuts the Commission has been asked to make by 2014.
“Staff were asked to attend a meeting to discuss proposals of possible redundancies.
“Lynn Sheridan was in attendance at the meeting as a consequence of the contract between Peninsula and the Commission.
“The Commission was completely unaware of Ms Sheridan’s background other than that she was the representative provided from Peninsula. We have entered into all discussions with the company in good faith.”
The spokeswoman said they had contacted Peninsula as soon as the matter was brought to their attention by the Belfast Telegraph.
She added: “Given the nature of the work of the Commission this information is clearly very concerning and we are in discussions with Peninsula about this.”
Last night nobody at Peninsula was available for comment.
However, in 2008 a spokesman for the company said they were fully aware of Sheridan’s background. He said: “Lynn is a well respected, professional member of our advocacy team.”
Jim Allister, the TUV leader, said that the fact that the NIHRC admitted it had unwittingly retained Sheridan raised serious questions about its governance.
“It shows that the Human Rights Commission, who can so readily set everyone else’s house in order, failed in its own vetting procedures,” he said.
Brian Campfield, general secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance which represents NIHRC staff, said he had previous dealings with Peninsula during cuts negotiations.
“They are generally linked to an insurance policy. If an employer follows their advice in shedding jobs then the employer is indemnified against any legal claims,” he said.”It makes for a very black and white style of negotiation.”
Lynn Sheridan (48), was dubbed the “nurse from hell” after being found guilty of misconduct in 1996. The case was brought after an investigation by the Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and resulted in the longest disciplinary hearing in UK history. Ms Sheridan denied all 11 charges, but was found guilty of nine.