Whorlton Hall Prosecution – Olivia Davies 14 March 2023

Technical difficulties in court first thing, combined with a scheduling clash for me mid morning, meant that I wasn’t in court for the conclusion of Olivia Davies cross examination by Mr Normanton, counsel for Karen McGhee, nor for the questioning of her by Mr Rutter for Peter Bennett or by Mr Constantine for Matthew Banner. I joined the court room part way through her questioning by Mr Walker for Sarah Banner at about midday.

Mr Walker described Sarah Banner as “battle hardened” and Ms Davies asserted that the staff were part of the culture at Whorlton Hall. Mr Walker suggested to Ms Davies that staff would spend hours, waiting to be attacked, something that she had documented in one of her records.

MrW: Sadly because of the unpredictable nature of some of the service users, that was an every day experience. Doing back to back 6hr shifts observing individuals, at times could be five or six restraints during a single shift?

OD: Yes it was hard work, it was really hard work, but the culture was just so normalised. The way staff talked about patients, was really normal, some of the things they said regularly… it just became normal, that was the culture I was trying to describe …. When talking about Whorlton Hall, the culture was also how staff saw the patients, it was really hard work working there, it was.

MrW: So ladies and gentlemen of the jury have the idea… when you were engaged and supporting a service user such as Patient 1, that could, and would, regularly involve simply sitting outside their room for hours, six hours

OD: Yes

MrW: You gave at the outset of your evidence an example, you said “this is described as a therapeutic unit”, was it?

OD: No it wasn’t

MrW: It wasn’t in the slightest was it?

OD: No

Mr Walker quoted back Ms Davies’ example she’d given to the court yesterday, that occasionally service users went out of the unit, for a haircut or a trip out. He told Ms Davies that Patient 1 hadn’t had a haircut in 10 months, and she didn’t regularly go out. Ms Davies agreed.

Mr Walker told the jury that there was no therapy going on for Patient 1 and Ms Davies commented:

No, but the parallel with the way staff saw patients, it wasn’t therapeutic at all.

Asked what therapy was provided, Ms Davies said there wasn’t really any. Mr Walker then moved on to what he referred to as “some criticism levelled at Sarah Banner” that she refused to repeat words and phrases back to Patient 1. Mr Walker explored what would be the topic of staff conversations would be and Ms Davies confirmed that often it would be colleagues views about work or individuals and certain aspects of the workplace.

MrW: techniques of managing different service users would be high on the list wouldn’t it?

OD: Yes, but you could talk about anything

MrW: MAYBO would be a principal subject of discussion?

OD: Yes

MrW: Because that would crop up regularly?

OD: Yes, but also because I’m working as a journalist and a support worker, there were conversations I as a journalist was trying to have, so certain things would bring up more regularly. I’m not there to be a support worker.

MrW: When you began working you described going in at the bottom rung, early in your time you struggled with reality those service users were there

OD: Yes

MrW: That upset you, quite naturally, as a young woman, seeing women and young men of similar age effectively incarcerated, kept there under the Mental Health Act

OD: Yes

Mr Walker suggested that Patient 1’s care plan was unrealistic because it suggested she aimed to live in Supported Living, he stated that it “contained living an independent life which is entirely unrealistic”, but Ms Davies confirmed that was how Patient 1 was living now.

Mr Walker suggested that Patient 1 could be, as Ms Davies had described her “sweet as pie”. She confirmed that to be her experience.

MrW: She could be very affable, very pleasant, very friendly.

OD: yes

MrW: And within the flick of a switch that could change?

OD: Yes but I always felt Patient 1 was incredibly complex. She’s incredibly complex but she’s also a product of her environment. The way she’s treated, or seen by staff, or interacted with. I mean wouldn’t you be distressed by the way she was living?

Mr Walker described a number of things that could trigger Patient 1’s distress, he described how she could become more agitated and suggested to Ms Davies, who agreed, that she lived “quite an isolated life in her room”.

Mr Walker then took Ms Davies to examples in her note where there was different approaches to repeating words back to Patient 1, commenting that “Without beating about the bush, there was complete disagreement about repeating” a view with which Ms Davies agreed.

Mr Walker then took Ms Davies to a number of statements from her records where she described staff learning on the job:

MrW: You said it was chaotic. The care plans were in utter chaos?

OD: Yes

MrW: The administration, in your words, complete chaos?

OD: Yes

MrW: Staff were thrown in, your words, the deep end. That was from the very outset wasn’t it?

OD: Yes

Mr Walker suggests that staff had to be experimental and learn through trial and error, as well as taking things from care plans, learning on the job.

MrW: Management were nowhere to be seen, in the office all day, no interaction between management and service users and no presence of senior management?

OD: Yes, but to me that doesn’t justify speaking about patients in way they did. It was chaotic, it was a really chaotic place, but it didn’t justify it to me

Mr Walker took Ms Davies to records she’d recorded contemporaneously where she described MAYBO “going out the window” and “you have to do what you have to do”. Mr Walker suggested to Ms Davies that she had a “birdseye view” of the alleged charges in the indictment, his final point went like this:

MrW: You’ve recorded numerous handwritten notes, a detailed statement, hours and hours in interview with your producers, some of which partly rehearsed, then repeated and documents again. I’m guessing the art of the documentary maker is if you see it, you say it and document it, is that fair?

OD: I don’t understand the question sorry

MrW: What is the art of the documentary maker? Is it to recount exactly what you see?

OD: Yes

MrW: And make it detailed, frank, straight forward

OD: I was trying to be as detailed as I possibly could, but there were so many hours of work as well. Sometimes after a shift, when I’d done 6 in a row, 20hrs days, or 5 in a row, there were times I’d just come home, after restraints and things, it was a lot to sit down, I’d write notes where I could

MrW: Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not being critical of the level of content

OD: No, but

HHJ: What is the question?

MrW: You detailed what you saw and experienced?

OD: Yes

MrW: You have a good working understanding of how the home works, an acute memory of the events?

OD: Yes

MrW: During those notes, during those recordings with your producer, you never once used the word cruel.

OD: Cruel?

MrW: Yes

HHJ: Sorry?

OD: I didn’t know I hadn’t used that word

MrW: Thank you.

Next the witness was questioned by Mr Christopher Knox, representing Ryan Fuller. He introduced Mr Fuller as a senior care assistant, who had been charged with mentoring Ms Davies when she started in her role.

CK: Ryan Fuller was a senior care assistant

OD: Yes

CK: No particular qualifications, but if you like survived the course, and proved to be satisfactory and therefore paid an extra 50p an hour

OD: I didn’t know that

CK: Your pay as an ordinary healthcare assistant, or however described, support worker, was effectively at minimum wage wasn’t it?

OD: Yes, I believe so

CK: So the ordinary care assistants, were being paid as ordinary basic wage, if you became a senior an extra 50p an hour

OD: I didn’t know that

CK: You didn’t know that. Would this be fair you did a lot of hours, but a lot of other people did a lot of hours too?

OD: Yes

Mr Knox suggested that a lot of staff, worked a lot of hours, in order to earn a decent wage, and that there was also a lot of agency staff employed at the time. Ms Davies agreed. He then suggested that Ms Davies was aware that a staff member had a substantial injury on her hand, a scratch, but Ms Davies could not recall that. Asked by HHJ Smith whether he had a diary entry to assist he said he did not.

CK: You made the diary entry and said this as well, one of the first comments you made to your diary was about this. You say staff were all leaving in their cars about 8 o’clock and I realised that the residents, the patients, the service users were not

OD: That they don’t go home, yes.

CK: Do you remember that?

OD: Yes, I do remember saying that

CK: It brought home to you the situation in which, these people in this hospital, we don’t know quite how many you think there were, 12 perhaps 8 or 9

OD: Yes, and there were patients which came later on whilst I was there, yes

CK: In reality they were all there, the prosecution told the jury they were all on orders under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act

OD: Yes

Mr Knox discussed with Ms Davies what that meant, but she was not familiar with the detail. She confirmed that she had never seen a doctor, or a psychiatrist, visit, talk to or interview any of the patients in the hospital.

Mr Knox suggests to Ms Davies that we see a lot of clips of Ryan Fuller because she spent a lot of time with him in her initial phrases of working at Whorlton Hall as he was mentoring her. He then took Ms Davies through the general contents of the care plans asking if she’d have read them, she confirmed she would have at the time but had no specific memory now. He then discussed with her medication, and she confirmed that it would always be dispensed by one of the registered nurses.

The court then adjourned for lunch. Mr Knox continued his questioning on return suggesting to Ms Davies that at the she worked at Whorlton Hall they were running at a 50% vacancy rate, which were filled by agency staff, she felt that would be about right.

Mr Knox then described Patient 1, “not being unkind” but with “quite a large physical body”, about 5ft 8 and “carrying quite a bit of weight”, who was “quite a substantial body to subdue” when she lost control. He described Patient 6 as living in his own flat, under constant surveillance of CCTV by one staff member, and with three staff members in his room “observing his every move… to be blunt, the reality of it was he could be extremely violent and be damaging, the other factor relevant to all of this, am sure you were warned about this, had to be very careful because was risk of self harm by residents”. He described some of the measures taken to limit the possibility of patients self harming, such as residents not being allowed in the main kitchen where the knives were, furniture being fixed to the floor and decoration being limited. Ms Davies agreed with his descriptions.

He then returned to discussing Patient 1 with Ms Davies.

CK: In relation to Patient 1, you’ve given us a lot of very helpful picture of your dealings with her… someone you thought on the whole you could get on with up to a point?

OD: Yes

CK: But you’d accept even though she related well to you she was capable of losing control without any obvious, were some things known to be triggers, but she could lose control without any obvious instant causes is that right?

OD: Yes

CK: Suggestion was it was said to her men would, if you continue to behave in a violent manner, then the restraint will be by men…that would be an obvious fact wouldn’t it, she’d recognised that?

OD: I cacan’t speak for her

CK: No of course not, but looking at it from obvious point of view was obvious if she lost control would be only too likely men would be restraining, called in, even if looked after by women on a day to day basis

OD: Yes, but Patient 1 wouldn’t necessarily understand that

CK: She wouldn’t necessarily understand that but it would be pretty obvious wouldn’t it?

OD: Because?

CK: You say she wouldn’t understand that but she understood quite a lot didn’t she?

Ms Richardson interjects [didn’t hear]

HHJ: I think you’re suggesting to de-escalate things, she might be told at times that men would arrive?

CK: Because it’s an obvious consequence

HHH. You’re putting is a de-escalation technique to say to Patient 1, you’ve got to calm down, to reason with her, because these are the consequences, men will come? That’s what’s being suggested as a secondary strategy, what do you say about that?

OD: It just made things worse by saying men are coming

HHJ: that’s not what you’re saying Mr Knox? You’re putting it would have a beneficial affect, would be necessary consequence of loss of control?

CK: I’ll not push you any further, I’ll move on

HHJ: so I understand are you saying it was a secondary strategy to persuade Patient 1 to calm down? Or are you saying there’s nothing remarkable about it because it is the consequence?

CK: Both

HHJ: Mr Knox is suggesting would be obvious, and Patient 1 would grasp that, would you agree with that?

OD: I couldn’t say for Patient 1

HHJ: And Mr Knox is saying it’s a secondary strategy to calm her down, to persuade her

OD: Yes (hesitantly)

HHJ: was that a secondary strategy that was used?

OD: Saying men will come? I don’t think it was a secondary strategy, because I think people knew the consequence, she didn’t like it, and it just made things worse for her.

CK: I’m going to move on

Mr Knox continued to discuss more of the patients with Ms Davies. When discussing Patient 4 the court heard that “He managed to make a complaint to the police about an assault… when the police arrived he absolutely denied assault and in fact denied he made the call”. Ms Davies said that she wasn’t there when this happened but she had heard about it from colleagues.

CK: Again, a very difficult person… someone who at times had to be restrained?

OD: Yes

CK: Because he could lose control quite rapidly and repeatedly

OD: Yes

CK: And yet it was possible to engage him on a basis

OD: Yes, but you’re also not looking at what it was that caused him to behave in certain ways. It’s quite easy to antagonise someone, then they’d react and its only at time they’d react that everyone else comes and a restraint happens. If you look at what the cause was, is easy to jump to conclusion he gets irate and needs restraint, but every circumstances is different and you have to look at the cause of why he got irate, and what caused him to get distressed

When questioning returned to the issue of police being called to Whorlton Hall later Ms Davies was asked by HHJ Smith how many times she remembered the police visiting. She responded:

“I just remember the one, where I heard second hand that overnight one of the service users had called, the police had come but they had not seen anything and I remember in my mind thinking its probably a cry for help really, I don’t know”.

Mr Knox described the incident of Patient 4 that the jury was shown in Clip 11 on 10 March. Suggesting that it was “perfectly sensible” of Ryan Fuller to remove Patient 4’s glasses to protect him, Ms Davies agreed. Mr Knox then suggested that it was for staff to “try and lighten the mood in whatever way possible” during a restraint.

Ms Richardson interjected to ask that the witness be shown the clip. It was played to the court. Afterwards his questioning of Ms Davies went like this:

CK: Do you recall those events now

OD: Yes I do

CK: Can I be clear about it, was Patient 4, was he calm by the end there?

OD: He seemed to be yes

CK: And would I be right in thinking that so far as this incident, once it had subsided he would be prepared to be, or capable of being dealt with in a more or less reasonable way until the next time?

OD: Yes

CK: That’s the picture one gets, explosion, settlement and then…

OD: Yes, but to me it felt none of that was necessary. He lives there, he was standing in the corridor, none of that had to happen, for him to end up on the floor, and all his things taken

CK: Let’s be clear, you didn’t see what happened before?

OD: No, but when I arrived he was standing there in the corridor in his house, I didn’t think he needed to be taken to the ground, in that way.

CK: Very well. We understand your position about that. The upshot of it is this, at the end of it he is not injured

OD: No he’s not injured

CK: This was one of a number of episodes such as this, assume you didn’t see them all that day?

OD: No

CK: Or that week?

OD: No

CK: Ultimately it’s for the jury to make their own decision about this.

The final counsel to question Ms Davies today was Mr Patton, who represents Niall Mellor. He opened his questioning like this:

MrP: You had some experience working here, you worked for 38 days?

OD: Yes

MrP: 38 days. You’ve got no formal qualifications in nursing have you?


MrP: In mental health nursing?

OD: No

MrP: Dealing with people with autism

OD: Not qualifications, no

MrP: No formal qualifications in dealing with ppl w learning disabilities

OD: No

MrP: No qualifications at all in relation to people subject to mental health sectioning?

OD: No

MrP: So when you give your opinion as to how people should behave its nothing compared to the experience of say, for example, a qualified nurse?

OD: No

MrP: And as we saw on the screen there was a qualified nurse wasn’t there?

OD: Yes

Mr Patton then questioned Ms Davies about whether she saw herself as a support worker or a journalist, she responded that she was both of those things. He continued:

MrP: You were in fact when employed by that company as a support worker?

OD: Correct

MrP: And do you know the law applies to you, as much as it does by any of them?

OD: Yes

MrP: So if there’s wilful neglect by you there’s wilful neglect by you, do you understand that?

OD: Yes

MrP: Can you tell us when you first spoke to the police about a safeguarding issue?

OD: I didn’t speak to the police, I mean I have through this investigation.

MrP: I want to know when you first complained to the police there was a safeguarding issue at these premises?

OD: That wouldn’t be done by me, would be done by producers and someone more senior than me.

MrP: Can I stop you there. Do you remember you signed a contract?

OD: Yes

MrP: As part of your contract you agreed to raise safeguarding issues didn’t you?

OD: Yes

MrP: A legally binding contract?

OD: Yes

MrP: You’re required by law to notify people if there’s a safeguarding issue?

OD: Correct

MrP: But you didn’t do it, did you?

OD: No

MrP: Why not?

OD: I don’t know

MrP: That’s not good enough I’m sorry. Why didn’t you notify the police there was a safeguarding issue?

OD: Because I wouldn’t have been able to collect the evidence I did collect

MrP: So it’s not about the patient it’s about the story?

OD: It isn’t about the story

MrP: It’s about your career isn’t it?

OD: No

MrP: What is the most important thing here? The welfare of the patient or Panorama’s story?

OD: Had this story not been shared with the world, the likes of Patient 1 and everyone who lived in that hospital wouldn’t be living independently like they are now

[At this point Ms Davies is audibly upset – I can’t see the witness so don’t know if it was apparent earlier on that she was upset]

MrP: So what’s the answer to the question I asked you?

OD: They’d probably still be living in that hospital now

MrP: What’s more important, these people’s lives or Panorama’s story?

OD: These are people’s lives, this isn’t about a story

MrP: You left on 4 March, why not go to the police?

HHJ: did you understand the police would be contacted?

MrP: I’m sorry your honour, if this is to happen I’d like [didn’t hear]

At this point HHJ Smith asked the jury and the witness to leave the court. I won’t report the discussion that took place as I only report when the jury are present.

After that discussion, court was adjourned for a break and I didn’t get sound back in the court room for half an hour. I’m not sure whether that was due to an extended break, or whether I missed some questioning.

When sound returned for me Mr Patton was asking Ms Davies about Patient 6, who he described as “the most violent man in the place”. Mr Patton was suggesting to Ms Davies that she was encouraging Patient 6 to hit a fellow staff member but she had responded that she didn’t know the incident, all she had was this transcript and she suggested it might be jovial:

OD: You’re making Patient 6 sound like a monster, but he’s also, you can interact and speak. You’re making him sound like a monster. You can also speak to XXX and have a laugh with XXX

Discussion about the incident continued and Ms Davies asked twice if she could see the video because she felt the transcript without context wasn’t sufficient. The court is shown a video where Patient 6 and a number of staff members are out in the snow, throwing snowballs. It wasn’t clear whether this was the correct video and the suggestion was it should be returned to.

Mr Patton returned to questioning Ms Davies about the safeguarding guidelines she worked to. He again suggested that she could be guilty of an offence of wilful neglect, because she’d been present while certain behaviour took place. Ms Davies described working carefully through hypothetical situations with the BBC, she said she’d need to look up the guidelines and protocol because it was four years since the event. On repeated questioning by Mr Patton about this issue, she again became upset.

HHJ Smith asked whether Mr Patton had a document he was referring to, he didn’t have it in front of him. HHJ Smith suggested that the witness be allowed to leave for the day, that Mr Patton alert the prosecution what document he was referring to and Ms Richardson, or one of her team, could provide it to Ms Davies to look at overnight. Mr Patton suggested that instead the witness should tell the court which document she was reminded of, but HHJ Smith did not agree, and felt it important that Mr Patton provide a copy.

The jury were discharged shortly after 4pm and asked to be ready to resume at 10:30 tomorrow. The case will continue then, or shortly after. HHJ Smith has explained that he, and some of the counsel, are sitting in other cases, unrelated to this one, so there might be some delay.

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