Care home residents dragged by hair and had head banged on floor by workers

Vulnerable care home residents were dragged by their hair and knelt on by workers in what has been described as “abhorrent” treatment.

Douglas Stephens, 41, was found to have been abusive and made sexual comments towards women at the Gower Lodge in Gowerton, Wales, where he worked.

Swansea Crown Court heard that on one instance he dragged a woman off a sofa by her hair, knelt on her stomach and banged her head against the floor.

He also used a racial slur towards a male resident and made barking noises outside his room.

He was jailed alongside Anthony Thomas, 65, and David Wedlake, 38, for ill-treating a person, the Daily Mirror reports.

Gower Lodge was a residential home for adults with a range of learning difficulties, complex behavioural issues and mental health conditions who needed one-to-one care.

During the trial, it was acknowledged that the residents' behaviour could often be "challenging" and staff used a system called Studio III which emphasised the management of residents through distraction and de-escalation techniques with physical intervention only being used as a last resort.

The abuse, which took place between 2015 and 2017, came to light when a former member of staff raised her concerns about what she had seen and heard.

Thomas was also verbally abusive and on one occasion dragged a woman out of the home's lounge area by her hair.

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Meanwhile, Wedlake, who was a shift leader at the home, made "callous" comments to a distressed resident who was threatening suicide and at one stage told her he would give her "a f***ing rope".

When the victim accused him of not caring, he replied: "I don't get paid to care."

Judge Geraint Walters told the defendants that the residents in their care at Gower Lodge had been among the most vulnerable in society and the way they had been treated was "abhorrent".

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He said that having heard the evidence in the trial he had come to view that there had been a culture operating in the home at the time where staff could almost act with impunity while others who were part of the "clique" effectively turned a blind eye.

The judge said it was a credit to the home's owners that when the allegations came to light they conducted their own enquiries – suspending seven members of staff as part of that process – before handing the matter over to the police.

Stephens and Thomas were both sentenced to a total of 15 months in prison, while Wedlake will serve a shorter sentence of just 18 weeks behind bars.

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The defendants will serve up to half those sentences in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.

Judge Walters said the whistleblowers who came forward to give evidence about what was going on were to be commended for their courage, saying such people "give voice to those who have no voice".

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