Accused home director had not read care guidelines

Wife of suicide victim boss tells court she was sleeping partner
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A director of a residential home accused of ill-treating mentally handicapped patients had never read the principal guidelines governing their care, a court was told yesterday.

Angela Rowe, 39, said she had never seen a copy of "Home Life", the national social services regulations which laid down appropriate ways of dealing with such people.

Mrs Rowe denies two counts of ill treating residents and a further two charges of wilfully neglecting residents in homes she ran with her late husband, Gordon, in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, under the name Longcare Limited between 1983 and 1993. He committed suicide last year before he could be charged with similar offences. Mrs Rowe told Kingston Crown Court in Surrey that her husband had been responsible for handling the business of the homes, Stoke Place Mansion House and Stoke Green House, and had put her name on a registration document without her knowledge. But Jonathan Caplan QC, cross-examining her, suggested she had been "one of the bosses" and that staff would refer problems to her.

"I am suggesting ... that you are trying to minimise your role and distance yourself from the operations of Longcare Limited," he said.

Mr Caplan said she had joined the venture as a an equal partner with Gordon Rowe and had asked her bank, unsuccessfully, for a loan to help with the establishment of the first home. "You and Gordon were very much together in planning the purchase of Stoke Place House and in setting up the company and you were going to try to achieve your financial part of the partnership by getting a loan from the bank," Mr Caplan said. And he suggested that she was given a share in the company because "you were about to play your full part in Longcare Limited, in effect running Longcare as partners with Gordon". Mrs Rowe denied this.

The court was told that she drew a salary which rose from pounds 8,000 a year to pounds 40,000 a year despite being off work sick for a considerable time.

Mrs Rowe, whose last given address was in Windsor, Berkshire, had told the jury that she had little active involvement with the homes for several significant periods, including 10 months in 1986 when she was suffering post-natal depression and much of 1992 and 1993after a hysterectomy and a road crash.

But Mr Caplan pointed to detailed entries in the homes record books which suggested she had been involved not only with laundry, toiletries and the catering as she claimed, but also with caring for the residents including details of medication.

Asked why some of the entries were in her handwriting when she said she did not work at Stoke Green House between 1987 and 1990, she said: "Some of the staff were Indian and could not write."

Nigel Rowe, Gordon's son, was responsible there, she said. "I may have put things in the report book but it was not my baby, it was Nigel Rowe's."

Questioned further she said: "I did not do any physical work with the residents."

Mr Caplan said the evidence of several expert witnesses had indicated that mentally handicapped people such as the autistic and Down's syndrome residents at Longcare, should not be punished or shouted at.

Asked whether she had ever punished a resident, Mrs Rowe said: "Never. I would send a resident to their room to cool off but that's it." She admitted shouting, but "not abuse", and denied recommending to one member of staff that she should clip a resident around the ear.

Two other former members of staff, Desmond Tully and Lorraine Field, also each face four charges of ill-treating residents. The case continues.

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