Judge demands documents in Four Seasons Omagh care home assault appeal
A judge has expressed serious concerns over missing documents in the case of an elderly man alleged to have been the victim of inappropriate restraint in an Omagh care home formerly operated by Four Seasons Healthcare.
Drumragh Care Home has since closed down. Catrina Tummons (27) of Lisnaragh Road, Strabane is currently appealing convictions for assaulting and ill-treating 86-year-old John Gormley, who suffered from vascular dementia.
The offences occurred on July 16, 2015, and Tummons was given a conditional discharge following a contested hearing at Omagh Magistrates Court. She was working as a care assistant in the home in which the victim, now deceased, was a patient.
The prosecution alleges Tummons assaulted the victim in the manner in which she restrained him when he became agitated, which was a characteristic of his condition.
A special chair designed for restraint was used, which should have had two belt-type devices, although one belt was broken. It is alleged Tummons replaced the broken belt with a neck-tie, but she maintains she was taking her instructions from a staff nurse.
This was Ntombi Sikhakhane, who has since left the jurisdiction and cannot be located.
However, Mr Gormley was supposed to be restrained chemically - as in by medication only - and by no other method.
With the appeal partially started, prosecution counsel Mr Michael McAleer was giving a brief outline of the details, when he raised "an issue about the absence of a care plan" which had been requested from Four Seasons Healthcare.
He said the release of papers in the case suggests the care plan which was supplied followed the restraining incident.
"So concerned were the victim's family, they sought material under Freedom of Information costing them £50, and again there is an absence of any care plan at the time of the matter," he said.
Judge Stephen Fowler QC responded: "I am very concerned by this. It defies belief there was not a care plan. This is a very important issue for the family, the public and indeed the defendant. I have requested this care plan and I am required to ask are they (Four Seasons Healthcare) in contempt by not providing it?"
Defence counsel Mr Martin Rodgers QC said his client made reference to a care plan, to which she sought to obtain access, but could not find one.
He continued: "My client had never seen a care plan. She was instead advised in general terms. A situation occurs and she asks herself, 'What do I do?' She took her instructions from her senior."
Prosecution counsel confirmed Four Seasons Healthcare had been written to at their Cheshire head office, and requested to provide Mr Gormley's care plan as of July 15 to 30, 2015.
Warning he would issue a summons if required, Judge Fowler agreed to adjourn the case to allow contact to be made with Four Seasons Healthcare senior staff who are to provide the care plan as required, or appear in court with an explanation.