The cruel are finally punished: Six care workers jailed on charges of shocking patient abuse at Winterbourne View

The Panorama footage of care workers abusing patients showed physical abuse and threats.
  • @mrsnickyclark

Six care workers have been jailed on charges of neglect or abusing patients at a private hospital after the acts of abuse were uncovered by BBC Panorama.

Judge Neil Ford QC said there was a "culture of cruelty" at the care home, whilst sentencing those who bullied leaning disabled patients at Winterbourne View near Bristol.

Five other workers were also given suspended sentences.

Wayne Rogers, 32, was identified as the ringleader in a catalogue of offences and has received two years in prison after admitting nine counts of ill-treating patients.

In my opinion, a prison term is justified, but the length of the sentence - given he will no doubt be released early - isn’t long enough.

He and his gang have sentenced their targets to a life of distrust; a life of recurring fear, and their families to a life of anxiety that the next placement will be another like Winterbourne View.

BBC One's Panorama showed patients at a residential care home near Bristol being slapped and restrained under chairs, having their hair pulled and being held down as medication was forced into their mouths.

The victims were shown screaming and shaking, and one showered while fully clothed and had mouthwash poured into her eyes.

Undercover recordings showed one senior care worker at Winterbourne View asking a patient whether they wanted him to get a "cheese grater and grate your face off?".

The fact remains that there are millions of learning disabled people in this country, with a widespread ignorance and neglect by society of those who need support most.

Me and my family recently had to make the agonising decision to place our youngest daughter in residential school, and the shadow cast by the behaviour at Winterbourne View is a long one. It haunts my mind and frames society’s view of our decision.

Those who point the finger and sigh 'abandonment' don’t understand the reality of challenging behaviour; don’t understand the tunnel of pain that our learning disabled daughter lives in whilst she tries to negotiate adolescence, and don’t understand the lack of support and services available to people in our position.

Decent support costs money. Ethical practices take time, and local councils are all too aware of their duty to “cost over value” as they slice and dice to make their choices of who gets what.

We’re lucky to have found a fantastic residential school close to home and to have benefited from an incredible respite provider. When I say lucky, I mean it, because families like ours up and down the country are being failed from lack of decent provision whilst the Coalition still argue over what the term “genuinely disabled” actually means.

Meanwhile, the pressure of caring for someone you love brings with it broken bones, non-existent social networks, work pressures, exhaustion, anxiety, despair and marriages that weaken and break under the strain.

We’ve resisted because of Winterbourne View and others like it for the longest time. We know the truth of human depravity because we read the papers and we hear first-hand accounts, but this vile stain diminishes the efforts of millions of dedicated workers and fierce advocates fighting for the rights of those who need them most.

"We must challenge and expose all cruelty, all bullying and all abuse where we find it"

We must challenge and expose all cruelty, all bullying and all abuse where we find it, because only then to we demonstrate that we are not complicit in the behaviour of those tormentors paid to care for others.

We must also remember the level of trust learning disabled people place in our hands as their parents and advocates. We mustn’t live in fear of the few, but strive constantly to let them go safely unto the care of others because independence, however protected, is vital to life.

Those who love learning disabled people and those who work ethically and diligently with disabled people, are part of the ripple effect of the campaign against such abuse at Winterbourne, and nothing demonstrates this more than the fierce determination of Terry Bryan, the whistle-blower and nurse who fought for the patients and who, without a doubt, saved them.

For that and with the exposure of this cruelty, he and the team at Panorama can justifiably feel incredibly proud.