By Rod Minchin
The final member of staff caught on camera abusing patients at a care home at the centre of a TV investigation has pleaded guilty.
Michael Ezenagu, 29, admitted two charges of ill-treating Simone Blake at the Winterbourne View private hospital in Hambrook, South Gloucestershire.
The care home was exposed by BBC1’s Panorama last year when an undercover reporter recorded secret footage of patients being abused by their carers.
The video appeared to show vulnerable residents being pinned down, slapped, doused in water and taunted.
Since the allegations were first broadcast, the home’s owner, Castlebeck, has closed Winterbourne View and two other residential homes following concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
A total of 11 staff at the private hospital have now pleaded guilty to offences relating to the ill-treatment of patients.
They will all be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court later.
The staff originally faced more than 40 allegations of ill-treating and wilfully neglecting five patients in their care between February and March 2011.
The 11 defendants are:
:: Ezenagu, of Malabar Court, India Way, Hammersmith, west London, pleaded guilty to two counts of ill-treating Miss Blake. He denied two further of ill-treating the same patient and a third similar charge against Mr Tovey.
:: Graham Doyle, 25, pleaded guilty to seven charges of ill-treating Miss Blake. However, he denied charges of wilfully neglecting Lorraine Guilford and ill-treating Simon Tovey. The prosecution have accepted the pleas and he will not face trial.
:: Jason Gardiner, 43, of Mellent Avenue, Bristol, admitted two charges of ill-treating Louisa Deville and Mr Tovey,
:: Danny Brake, 27, of Beechen Drive, Fishponds, Bristol, also pleaded guilty to two charges of ill-treating Miss Blake and Mr Tovey.
:: Sookalingum Appoo, 58, of Dial Lane, Bristol, admitted three charges of wilfully neglecting Miss Blake.
:: Wayne Rogers, 31, of Purton Close, Bristol, pleaded guilty to nine charges of ill-treating Louisa Deville, Mr Tovey and Miss Blake. He denied a charge of ill-treating Louise Bisset, which was accepted by the prosecution.
:: Alison Dove, 25, of Chipperfield Drive, Bristol, pleaded guilty to seven charges of ill-treating Miss Guilford, Miss Bisset and Miss Blake. She pleaded not guilty to ill-treating Mr Tovey, which was accepted by the prosecution.
:: Holly Draper, 23, of The Old Orchard, Mangotsfield, Bristol, pleaded guilty to two charges of ill-treating Miss Blake.
:: Charlotte Cotterell, 21, of Melrose Avenue, Yate, Bristol, pleaded guilty to one charge of ill-treating Miss Blake. She denied a second charge against the same victim.
:: Neil Ferguson, 27, of Emersons Green, Bristol, pleaded guilty to one count of ill-treating Miss Blake. He denied a second charge of ill-treating the same patient.
:: Kelvin Fore, 33, of Ellesmere Walk, Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to one charge of wilfully neglecting Miss Blake but denied a second allegation against the same person.
All 11 defendants have been granted bail with the condition that they are not allowed to work or seek work with vulnerable people.
Pre-sentence reports were also ordered for each defendant.
The Recorder of Bristol, Judge Neil Ford QC, told Ezenagu, who was the only defendant present in court for today’s hearing: “Your case will be adjourned for sentence and your sentence and the sentence of your co-accused will take place together.
“I am told that the sentencing hearing will take as long as a week and there will be some delay in finding a date.”
Speaking after the hearing, Ann Reddrop, head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s South West Complex Case Unit, said: “Safety and security, and the ability to live free from fear and harassment, are fundamental human rights.
“The kind of offending that took place at Winterbourne View undermined these rights in an appalling and systematically brutal way.
“The CPS has treated these as Disability Hate Crimes, which we regard as particularly serious.
“Disability Hate Crimes are based on ignorance, prejudice and hate. Disabled people can be victims of crime due to their perceived vulnerability, particularly where there is an unequal relationship, such as where the perpetrator is the victim’s carer.
“At Winterbourne View, people who should have been able to trust their carers had that trust cruelly and repeatedly abused.
“The CPS will invite the judge to consider exercising his powers under Section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 when passing sentence.”
Dame Jo Williams, chair of the Care Quality Commission, said: “This prosecution sends out a clear message that care staff who abuse vulnerable people will be charged and brought before the courts.
“There is a responsibility on all of us to report such behaviour so that firm action can be taken to protect people and, when the evidence is there, to prosecute those responsible.
“We are committed to do all we can to protect vulnerable people – and we apologise to patients at Winterbourne View, and their families, for our failure do so quickly enough in this case.
“Following a thorough internal review, we have made changes to strengthen our processes and to ensure that we are better placed to prevent abuse.
“We have made it easier for people to raise concerns with us and we have set up a specialist team to deal with whistleblowers and to ensure that we follow up all allegations. All inspectors have received additional training in this.
“In response to this case, inspectors have made unannounced inspections of 150 services for people with learning disabilities and where we found concerns, we have already taken action.
“We recognise that hospitals like Winterbourne View are high risk institutions. We will respond swiftly and appropriately whenever concerns are raised.
“We will have more to say on CQC’s role in this case – and the steps we have taken since – when the serious case review, examining the role of all the agencies involved, is published shortly.
“It is important to be clear that CQC alone cannot prevent abuse; it needs constant vigilance by all of us to report concerns and protect vulnerable people.
“We are grateful to (former nurse) Terry Bryan for his persistence in bringing this into the open.”
The South Gloucestershire Safeguarding Adults Board will publish the Serious Case Review into the Winterbourne View scandal tomorrow.
Detective Chief Superintendent Louisa Rolfe, head of CID at Avon and Somerset Police, said: “I wish to acknowledge the support and patience of the victims and their families throughout our inquiry.
“We were shocked by the Panorama programme, as many people were. The voice of the victim has been central to our investigation into this case.
“The investigation has always been about the criminal actions of 11 individuals working at Winterbourne View.
“The Serious Case Review, which will be published tomorrow, will consider all other concerns regarding this hospital.
“The 11 individuals abused the trust of victims and that of their relatives and friends.
“They have all pleaded guilty to criminal offences of ill- treatment and neglect as detailed within the Mental Health Act.
“Had it not been for the actions of individuals who raised concerns about the neglect and cruelty suffered by the victims at Winterbourne View, this wholly unacceptable behaviour would have continued unchecked.
“We now await sentencing, which will bring the criminal justice process to a final conclusion.”