Law fails disabled, says police officer

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The Independent Online
A police officer who spent two-and-a-half years bringing to justice three care workers who abused more than 40 mentally handicapped adults in their care has spoken of her frustration with the way the law treats victims and witnesses with learning difficulties.

She claims that the pressure for quick prosecutions dissuades the authorities from following up difficult cases of abuse of the mentally disabled, and that the public have little interest in the fate of this "minority group".

Detective Constable Madeleine Stewart, of Thames Valley Police, investigated allegations of mental, physical and sexual abuse in two care homes for the mentally handicapped in Stoke Poges, Berkshire.

On 14 May, three staff at Stoke Place Mansion House and Stoke Green House were convicted of abusing residents in their care. Desmond Tully, 42, Angela Rowe, 39, the director of the homes, and Lorraine Field, 42, were found guilty at Kingston Crown Court of physically and mentally abusing more than 40 of the 70 disabled adults living in the homes over a period of 11 years. They will be sentenced next month.

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 programme Does He Take Sugar? last night, DC Stewart said the law made it difficult to bring prosecutions against those accused of abusing people with learning difficulties. She said both the Crown Prosecution Service and the police were reluctant to take on such cases.

"They know that the law does not protect these people. They can only work with the law as it exists," she said.

Alun Michael, the Home Office minister responsible for criminal policy, promised a review of the way people with learning difficulties were treated by the courts.