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Vulnerable adult 'kept in disgusting room as punishment'

Published 26/02/2016

The man told Bristol Crown Court that being shut in the room was 'unspeakable'
The man told Bristol Crown Court that being shut in the room was 'unspeakable'

A vulnerable adult has told a court how he blew the whistle on care home managers running a regime where disabled residents were allegedly imprisoned in empty rooms as punishment.

He described the room at the Veilstone care home as "disgusting and cold" and said being shut inside was "too unspeakable".

The man was giving evidence at the trial of five people accused of being responsible for "organised and systematic abuse" of disabled residents at the Veilstone and Gatooma care homes in Devon, which were operated by Atlas Project Team Ltd.

Atlas managing director Paul Hewitt, 70, and employees Lee Farrant, 30, James Lawson, 41, Julie Barlow, 51, and Aaron Jones, 33, are said to have operated a culture where staff tried to correct residents' behaviour as if they would train an animal.

Seven residents, who had a range of learning disabilities, were routinely kept overnight in cold and empty rooms - known as the "quiet room" or "garden room" - over a two-year period in 2010 and 2011.

An investigation was launched when one of the residents, known only as AC, reported managers to the watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, in July 2011. The homes were later shut down.

Bristol Crown Court was told the room at Veilstone was made as bad as possible by staff and that AC was often left there on his own.

The witness, who is in his fifties and has learning disabilities, a low IQ and epilepsy, told police in a recorded interview played to the jury that he moved to the home in August 2007.

AC said he remained there until June 2010 when he left following an incident in which the police were called.

Jurors have previously heard that AC was effectively "stitched up" by the care home's manager Jolyon Marshall, 41, and two staff members, Tim Berry, 24, and Lisa Pluckrose, 46. All three have since admitted perverting the course of justice.

"The quiet room was used a lot with me," AC told the court.

"Anything I had done, they used to put me in there. If I did something that they didn't like I was straight back in.

"It's not on to do that. A normal person would not put a person in a room like that because they have problems.

"It was a room that was disgusting and cold. They had an airbed in there which had a puncture and at night the door was locked.

"It had a CCTV camera, a smoke detector and a punctured mattress - it was an airbed but it had a puncture in.

"It was one of the things that was too unspeakable - I couldn't stay in there.

"It had lino on the floor. It was cold, damp. If you wanted to go to the toilet, there was no toilet in there. There was a window but it was locked. No curtains.

"They made the room as bad as possible and as uncomfortable as possible.

"There was no handle on the inside and there was a handle on the outside. If you wanted to go to the toilet you had to knock on the door.

"I was kept in there overnight. I wasn't able to get out. I tried to get out but they grabbed me and got me back in."

Asked how being kept in the quiet room made him feel, AC replied: "It made me feel terrible in a way. That's one of the reasons I rang the CQC.

"An animal basically. He (Jolyon Marshall) was what I would call the nastiest person you could ever come across. Him and his team."

Describing Marshall, he added: " He was quite pushy and if you didn't do what he wanted you got put in the quiet room. He didn't like me, he was just vindictive.

"When the CQC came around he would say not to tell anybody about the bad things. They didn't know about the quiet room because it was not on the reports."

Hewitt, of Teignmouth, Devon, denies charges of conspiracy to detain and imprison falsely and failure to discharge a duty.

Lawson, of Bideford, Devon, denies eight charges of false imprisonment; Farrant, of Bideford, Devon, denies six charges of false imprisonment; Jones, of Bideford, Devon, and Barlow, of Bideford, Devon, deny three charges each of false imprisonment.

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