Police have arrested four people in connection with the abuse of disabled patients at a care home – following an undercover BBC Panorama investigation.
Three men, aged 42, 30 and 25, and a woman aged 24, were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of assault and mistreatment of patients in their care.
All were released on police bail pending further enquiries while 13 of the care home’s staff have been suspended.
But staggeringly the families of some of the carers featured in the documentary defended their loved ones yesterday – with one claiming: ”there’s two sides to every story”.
Police launched an inquiry after being shown footage of disabled adults being slapped, kicked, sat on and drenched with water at Winterbourne View care home.
The five-week undercover BBC investigation, screened on Tuesday night, filmed abuse at the privately-owned, purpose-built, 24-bed facility, on the outskirts of Bristol.
They were tipped off by whistle-blower Terry Bryan, a former senior nurse at Winterbourne, who repeatedly approached authorities with his concerns about its care.
Panorama journalist Joe Casey wore a secret camera to film apparent shocking scenes of abuse on patients by staff – who were meant to be looking after them.
The reporter captured footage of some of the hospital’s most vulnerable patients, who suffer from autism and learning difficulties, being repeatedly pinned down.
Some were slapped and dragged into showers while fully clothed, while others were taunted and teased.
Mr Casey told the BBC documentary: ”On a near-daily basis, I watched as some of the very people entrusted with the care of society’s most vulnerable targeted patients – often, it seemed, for their own amusement.
”They are scenes of torment that are not easily forgotten.”
Andrew McDonnell, a leading expert in working with adults with mental disabilities, labelled some of the examples captured on film ”torture”.
Mr McDonnell, a clinical psychologist, said he was shocked by the treatment of vulnerable patients at the hands of those charged with their care.
After watching footage of an 18-year-old patient, Simone, being verbally abused and doused with cold water while fully clothed as a punishment, he said: ”This is not a jail – people are not here to be punished.
”This is a therapeutic environment. Where’s the therapy in any of this? I would argue this is torture.”
Simone’s parents revealed she had told them of the alleged abuse at the hospital – but they had assured her it would not be allowed to happen.
Her mum Lorna told the BBC: ”She told us, that she had been hit, her hair had been pulled and she’d been kicked – and I said no, this wouldn’t happen, they’re not allowed.”
Whistle-blower Terry Bryan said: ”I have seen a lot over 35 years but this I have never seen anything like this. It is the worst I have seen.
”These are all people’s sons, daughters, parents, aunties, uncles. These are all people who have got families – the families themselves do not know what goes on there.”
Mr Bryan reported his concerns to both management at Winterbourne View and to the government regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), but his complaint was not taken up.
Ian Biggs, regional director of the CQC for the southwest, said an opportunity to prevent abuse was missed when Mr Bryan’s complaints were not investigated.
He said: ”Had we acted at that time, as we have done now, we can act very quickly to cease that kind of treatment.
”We missed that chance and we are sorry for that and we’re doing everything we can now to make sure we’re responding properly.”
The Care Quality Commission also said in a statement: ”Following an internal review, we recognise that there were indications of problems at this hospital which should have led to us taking action sooner.
”We apologise to those who have been let down by our failure to act more swiftly to treatment that people at this hospital were subjected to.”
Winterbourne View’s owners, Castlebeck, have launched an internal investigation into their whistle-blower procedures and are reviewing the records of all of their 580 patients in 56 facilities.
The vulnerable patients filmed by Panorama have been moved to safety and 13 staff have been suspended.
The hospital charges taxpayers an average of #3,500 per patient per weekend Castlebeck has an annual turnover of #90m.
Its chief executive Lee Reed told the programme he was ”ashamed” by what had happened.
He said: ”All I can do is unreservedly apologise to both the families and the vulnerable adults that have been involved in this and recommit to making sure this doesn’t happen again.”
An Avon and Somerset Police spokesman confirmed yesterday (weds): ”Police can confirm that four people have been arrested in connection with enquiries linked to allegations of abuse and mistreating of patients at the Winterbourne View Hospital in Hambrook.
”They have been arrested on suspicion of assault/mistreatment of patients under the Mental Capacity Act.
”All four have been released on police bail, pending further enquiries.”
The family of one of the carers allegedly at the centre of the abuse – named locally as Wayne Rogers – complained that he was not able to defend himself yesterday (weds).
Speaking from the door of his family home, in Bristol, a woman said: ”He’s not here.I am not saying who I am. No comment.
”He’s been instructed to say no comment as well. He can’t say anything – he can’t even defend himself.”
Relatives of another carer in the film, Allison (corr) Dove, from Kingswood, Bristol, said there were ”two sides” to the story.
A woman, in her 60s, who would not confirm who she was said: ”She does not live here, we do not speak, but what I will say is there is two sides to every story. That’s it.”
At the home of one of a third carer, Graham Doyle, 25, a woman confirmed herself as his mum but would not give her name.
She would not say whether Graham was one of those arrested and bailed by police.
Speaking at the door of the home in Bradley Stoke, Bristol, she said: ”They have slimmed five weeks of footage into half an hour.
”Graham is not here at the moment – he will probably be advised not to say anything.”