A CARE worker has been jailed for taking humiliating and degrading photos of vulnerable elderly women for ‘a laugh’.
Laquiesha Beatty was working at Oak View care home, Beach Road, Hayling Island, looking after elderly people with advanced dementia who needed 24-hour care.
But the 22-year-old humiliated the five victims by taking photos of them in vulnerable positions, a trial at Portsmouth Crown Court heard.
Co-defendant William Bramwell, 26, was charged in relation to two of the victims.
Prosecutor Rob Welling said: ‘What is clear in this case is that these two defendants utterly abused the trust placed with them by the family members.’
The court heard the events only came to light after a photo was sent to someone who called in police.
All staff were told to hand in their mobile phones which prompted an admission from Beatty that she had taken offensive photos of human waste on her phone and sent it to Bramwell and they ‘had had a laugh’.
In one of the photos Bramwell, a father of four, is pictured on a bed with one of the patients who looks shocked and upset.
Bramwell admitted taking a photo, though it has never been found, of another victim in the bath with her upper body exposed. He claimed he did this because a family member had a similar medical condition.
In another, a patient is tipped back in her wheelchair.
Mr Welling said: ‘Although she clearly would not have had any memory of it, it must have been very distressing and confusing.’
Another photograph shows two victims placed in bed together. The court heard both women have mobility issues and could not have got in the bed themselves.
Bramwell was also photographed next to a victim with her underwear pulled down to her thighs. She was crying.
Bramwell claimed to have no knowledge of this and was not charged, although Beatty admitted taking it.
Beatty took photos of a victim wearing sunglasses when there was no way she would have been able to put them on herself.
She also photographed another woman on the toilet with another victim in front of her. Beatty also admitted taking a photo of a man’s medical records which contained photos of a sore on his buttock.
In the packed public gallery, relatives of the victims struggled to contain their emotions as the details were read out.
Bramwell, dressed in a grey suit, hung his head as the case was outlined.
At one point Beatty, with her hair scraped back and dressed head to toe in black, left the dock shaking and crying.
Hannah Wyatt, defending Beatty, said her client’s comments on being arrested were: ‘I was the stupid one for taking the pictures. I have got to take responsibility.’
She said : ‘Her actions were those of an incredibly immature and stupid young girl.’
The court heard Beatty had recently got a job in the Elegance strip club in Southsea, and was ‘terrified’ by the thought of prison.
Maria Lamb, defending Bramwell, told the court he had not been in trouble with police before.
Since the age of 13 he had been a registered carer for his mother and was now a carer for his stepdaughter who is severely disabled, as well as his stepfather. His brother was murdered aged 18.
She said he had worked long hours at Oak View with no formal training – just two or three days shadowing another member of staff.
Miss Lamb said, ‘This was not malice – this was utter thoughtlessness.’
Judge Sarah Munro described the case as ‘distressing, to say the least’ but said there was no evidence of systemic abuse at the home.
Turning to Beatty, of Ilex Walk, Hayling Island, Judge Munro said, despite her mitigation and her fragile mental state, she had no choice but to jail her for three months.
Judge Munro said Bramwell had a lower culpability and, taking into account his family responsibilities, she gave him a three-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.
When her sentence was announced Beatty screamed: ‘I don’t understand!’
She stood up and held her hands out, shouting ‘I want my dad!’ before she was taken to the cells. She could be heard shouting and crying while Judge Munro sentenced Bramwell.
Many of those on both sides of the court were in tears.
Outside the court a relative of one of the victims covered his hands with his face and fell back against the wall crying.
Another, who did not want to be named, said: ‘You put your parents in care and expect them to be looked after at their most vulnerable.
‘We have been badly let down. There are thousands of carers who are doing a fine job and I hope this is just a one-off.
‘What we want to think is that this is never going to happen again and this behaviour won’t be tolerated.’
Beatty pleaded guilty to five counts of ill treatment/wilful neglect of a person without capacity against five different women.
She also pleaded guilty to knowingly or recklessly obtaining disclosing or procuring personal information of a patient, from Gorseway Lodge, Hayling Island.
This related to taking photos of a man’s medical records which included intimate photos.
Bramwell, of Gutner Lane, Hayling Island, admitted two charges of ill treatment/wilful neglect of a person without capacity against two different women.
‘ANYONE WITH CONCERNS SHOULD TELL THE POLICE...’
Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Leith Morrison said: ‘These two people behaved in a despicable way, neglecting their position of trust with vulnerable people.
‘Hampshire Constabulary’s Vulnerable Adult Investigation Team would like to thank the relatives of the victims for their co-operation and understanding throughout our enquiries and this court case. There is no evidence to suggest this case is linked to any other crimes or reports.’
Any member of the public with concerns about people in a similar situation is always encouraged to report information to the authorities.
Hampshire Constabulary’s Vulnerable Adult Investigation Team can be contacted by phoning 101. Mini-com users can phone 18001 101.
CARE HOME’S STATEMENT
Management and staff at Oak View Residential Care Home are appalled and shocked about the incident.
The two were quickly dismissed, and English Oak has referred them to the Disclosure and Barring Service to ensure they never work in care again.
The incident has been particularly distressing and upsetting for residents and their families, and Oak View has actively assisted police in their investigations.
Residents and their families have been our priority concern throughout, and we have kept them regularly updated.
Hampshire County Council carried out its own investigation into the incident to confirm that Oak View had conducted required background checks, including CRB and references, on the two ex-members of staff, and that the two had undertaken the appropriate training in care.
At no point was Oak View given even the slightest indication that the two ex-members of staff would take the actions that they did.
Since the incident, Oak View has also had an unannounced inspection from the Care Quality Commission.
Oak View remains fully compliant in all national standards of care and safeguarding for residents.
This statutory recognition of our services does not, however, minimize the shock we as an otherwise trusted care home provider feel over the incident.
In response, and as an added safeguard, Oak View has since adopted a policy that its carers should not carry mobile phones when on duty.
‘THERE’S A SENSE OF BETRAYAL’
Details of victim impact statements, written by family members of the victims, were given in court.
‘The sense of betrayal is palpable,’ said prosecution barrister Rob Welling.
He said a relative of one of the victims had treated Beatty with kindness because his mother had been in the care home for so many years.
The court heard the man has had to have counselling to try and overcome the guilt he feels at leaving his mother to the clutches of Beatty. Mr Welling added: ‘The victims are not just those who are residents but those who have had to accept what happened to their loved ones.’