Family of OAP attacked by care worker have lost faith in system
The daughter of a pensioner living with Alzheimer's disease who was assaulted by a worker in a care home has told how the attack destroyed her trust in the system.
Amanda McAllister was speaking outside Ballymena Magistrates' Court, where Mary Christine Finlay (45), who worked at Ben Madigan Care Home in Newtownabbey, was given a four-month prison term for assaulting 71-year-old Henry Kenneth Smith.
Finlay, from Bawnmore Drive, Newtownabbey, was also sentenced for a second charge - ill-treatment of the victim on March 25, 2017.
She has since been dismissed from her job.
A prosecutor told the court that in March last year a report was made to police that another care worker at Ben Madigan witnessed Finlay "slap a resident forcibly round the head".
There were also allegations of "very inappropriate language" being used.
The prosecutor said the complaint was made by the worker after her first day.
A defence lawyer said Finlay - a mum-of-five - was going through "fairly difficult circumstances" and had cared for and continues to care for people in her own family circle setting.
"She has contributed hugely to society and continues to do so daily," explained the lawyer, adding that Finlay now spent most of the time in her house and had been seen by a doctor for depression.
The lawyer said that there had been a context to the incident. He also stressed that Finlay had shown remorse and recognised that he behaviour was "entirely inappropriate".
Handing down the custodial sentence, Judge King said he had to take into account the "position of power" the defendant had over Mr Smith.
She was released on her own bail of £500, pending appeal.
Later, Mr Smith's daughter, Amanda (47), said: "She deserves the sentence because my dad has nobody to stick up for him, only us. We are his voice.
"We would never have known if it wasn't for the whistleblower - an agency care worker - who was there for the first night.
"It had to take a stranger coming in to bring that to the forefront, and that is the hurtful thing.
"Whenever you put your dad in somewhere like a care home, it is hard enough.
"We are not happy. I don't trust anybody any more. He was only there a few months when this happened."
Mr Smith, a former mechanical engineer and professional golfer, has been at Ben Madigan Care Home for around a year-and-a-half, but the family are now considering moving him.
Mrs McAllister explained: "He was a good hard worker and loves his family.
"I have photos of him smiling on his 71st birthday when he saw his sister. Things come back.
"The unfortunate thing about the disease is that you gets snippets of them.
"My nephew, who is only 12, won the all-Ireland boxing championships and when I went and told my dad, he stuck his two fists up. For that split second, he remembered. That's what we are holding on to."
Priory Group, which runs the Ben Madigan Care Home, said: "The safety of residents is our absolute priority and we have a zero tolerance of abuse of any kind, always supporting prosecutions in the rare instances where it occurs.
"As soon as this incident came to light, it was reported to the family, police and safeguarding team in the commissioning trust, and the staff member was suspended, pending a full police investigation, and subsequently dismissed.
"We worked closely with the police and other external agencies, including the care watchdog, throughout."