“My time in prison was a living nightmare”
Wanda Maddocks speaks after being jailed ‘in secret
Thursday, May 30, 2013
JAILED ‘in secret’ Wanda Maddocks says she ran away to Turkey with her dad because she wanted to save him from a life he loathed – living in a council-run care home.
The 50-year-old was jailed for contempt of court while fighting to remove her father, John Maddocks, from the care of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Mr Maddocks died in January, aged 80.
Miss Maddocks failed to attend a court hearing and also breached orders made by the Court of Protection following applications made by the city council.
She was not present at court or represented when she was sentenced to five months in prison, last September.
A court order also meant she could not be identified until she was released from Foston Hall Prison, in Derbyshire, after a six week spell.
The case – which was only made public last month – sparked a row over transparency in the family justice system.
She was thought to be the first person to be imprisoned by the Court of Protection, which settles the affairs and appoints deputies to act on behalf of people who are unable to make decisions about their personal health, finance or welfare.
Now Miss Maddocks, aged 50, has spoken in detail about her ordeal for the first time.
She says began when her dad, of Northwood, was diagnosed with dementia and was eventually voluntarily admitted to Stadium Court nursing home, in Festival Park, in April, 2010.
Miss Maddocks, a former property developer in Turkey, says her dad had a reasonable standard of living at home, and was only slightly confused, in the early stages of dementia. However, she says he rapidly deteriorated in care – leading her family to hatch a dramatic kidnap plot in an attempt to give him a new life abroad.
Miss Maddocks, now of Union Street, Hanley, said:
“He was a total zombie when I went to visit him. He was really depressed in there, he wanted to kill himself. He said, ‘if someone doesn’t get me out of here I’m going to hang myself’
“At the time I was spending a lot of time in Turkey, where I had property interests and I wanted to be back here with dad.”
Father-of-four Mr Maddocks was then transferred to Trentside Manor in Norton, in August, 2010, and then Park Hall in Bentilee, in November, 2010.
By then, Miss Maddocks was starting to come into conflict with staff over her father’s care.
She says her dad had escaped from nursing homes on several occasions, but always been led back.
Miss Maddocks claims her father’s escapes led to him being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. And she claims she was then banned from seeing her dad, unless she was supervised by staff, after she kept him overnight at her home in Hanley on a number of occasions.
“He was too well to go into a dementia home. He hated it in care. He felt like he was in hell.”
Then at Christmas, 2010, the family managed to smuggle out the 80-year-old former painter and decorator through a fire door at Park Hall – and into a waiting getaway car.
Miss Maddocks said:
“I went to see dad at the home. I hadn’t seen him in two weeks but I wasn’t allowed to see him without supervision. Dad said, ‘can you not give me some time on my own with my daughter?’
“He was really upset and wound up. It broke my heart.
“The next day my family managed to get him out. They rang me up and I started crying, saying ‘bring him here, I know I can look after him a lot better, I will take him to Turkey’.
“I was thrilled. I had to hide him at my ex-boyfriend’s house. The police were telephoning me, they were saying, ‘we are coming to find you’, and ‘we will find you’, and ‘we want your dad back in that home’. It scared the life out of us. We didn’t dare draw the curtains, I thought they were going to find us.
“I booked us a flight out to Turkey and we managed to get to Manchester Airport and flew out there.
“Dad improved 100 per cent in Turkey. He was so normal, and he ate well. I knew only I could look after him.
“He started putting weight on. His health improved so much it was amazing. He was going for walks all the time.
“He still had a bit of confusion, but his brain was being stimulated a lot more. I even took him line dancing.
“He decided he wanted to live in Turkey. He said we should go back and sort out his finances so he could move out there.”
But when they did return to Stoke-on-Trent, Miss Maddocks developed bronchitis and had her father admitted to Abbots House care home, for what she intended to be two weeks respite care.
Instead, Mr Maddocks was put back in care for the rest of his life, and a Court of Protection battle continued between the family and the city council, to determine who should be responsible for deciding the best way to care for the frail pensioner.
Miss Maddocks was jailed for contempt of court for reasons including ignoring the court’s orders not to try to remove her father from care.
She was also censured for producing a leaflet to try to publicise the case.
Miss Maddocks says it was claimed she gave her father a cross to ‘ward off evil’, when in fact it was simply a memento of his time in Turkey. She also denied being abusive to care home staff.
The Court of Protection is a branch of the High Court and its hearings are always conducted in private.
Miss Maddocks said:
“I was just visiting dad at Abbots House when it all happened. I remember it was September 11. They just threw me in prison.
“I had not turned up to a court hearing and the council accused me of being abusive. I was terrified.
“When I was in that jail, it made me feel worse because I knew what it must have felt like for dad. I knew exactly how he felt. I should never have been sent to prison, it was totally wrong. My dad didn’t know where I was. When I came out he wanted to know why I hadn’t bothered to see him for so long.
“Time slows down that much when you have been locked up. Every day takes about 10-times longer. You just think about when you can get a bit of freedom.
“A lot of the girls in there were in hell. They were self-harming and would queue to get their methadone.
“The first two days I was there I cried my eyes out. The prison officers spoke to me like I was a bit of dirt, like I was a hardened criminal.
“When I first got there they put me in a remand block. I was in a cell wondering how long I would be there. No-one came out to see me.
“Because I was the only civil prisoner in there, they said they didn’t know what to do with me. They kept me locked up alone most of the time. I used to watch the other girls going to work, or for recreation time. I wrote lots of letters saying, ‘please can I go out on rec’.
“They said I wasn’t allowed to speak to the public, because of the court order. I wanted to ring up for a solicitor and my MP.
“I wasn’t even allowed to ring my family. I couldn’t even tell my dad I was in jail – he thought I’d forgotten about him.
“The other girls didn’t believe me when I told them what I was in for. They thought I had robbed my dad or done something really bad.
“They called me a liar and even attacked me. Some of the girls ganged up and they ran at me and hit me.
“It was such a relief when I managed to get out.”
After she was released from prison, Miss Maddocks and her family continued their efforts to get their father out of care. But they were ultimately unsuccessful and Mr Maddocks died in January.
Miss Maddocks added:
“I knew I could care for my dad better than the council. He shouldn’t have been in care, he should have been able to live with me, with his family. It was heart breaking.”
A Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesman insisted the correct procedures were followed, adding: “Our chief concern was always centred around the welfare of Miss Maddocks’ father, who was suffering from a deteriorating condition and required 24-hour supervision in a stable environment.”
‘The stark terror felt by some people facing courts, benefit assessments, arrests, bailiffs, prisons or even more seemingly benign institutions such as social services, Jobcentres and community mental health teams can often cause people to destroy themselves. This can happen even if ‘professionals’ concerned do their jobs properly within the constrain of the system and no-one is really personally culpable.’