Whorlton Hall Prosecution – Olivia Davies 21 March 2023

This was the fifth day in court for the prosecution’s first witness, Olivia Davies, the BBC journalist who worked undercover as a support worker at Whorlton Hall, filming the video footage being used in this case. You can read about her first day here, second day here, third day here, fourth day here and this post relates to the end of her cross examination by counsel for the defendants.

The court was experiencing technical difficulties yesterday and therefore the press attending remotely on the CVP link were not able to follow anything beyond the first 5 minutes or so of the afternoon’s proceedings. Therefore I am unable to report on the cross examination of Ms Brown, for Darren Lawton, which took place yesterday.

On return to court this morning Ms Brown was offered the opportunity to show the video footage she’d been unable to play yesterday, but she declined this invitation and it was left to Mr Dryden and Mr Rooney to cross examine Ms Davies.

Mr Dryden, who represents John Sanderson, asked Ms Davies questions about Patient 4. He asked Ms Davies whether she was ever given a “heads up” about particular service users, or whether she was just to read the care plans. She said that she was left to read the care plans. Mr Dryden took her to a page from Patient 4’s care plan with “a brief outline, couple of sentences explaining what Patient 4’s difficulties are”. Ms Davies confirmed that to be the case.

MrD: He appears to be diagnosed with autism, mild to moderate learning disability and type 2 diabetes, ok. That was touched on yesterday in terms of his diabetes. He didn’t accept he had diabetes did he?

OD: No, he didn’t like to talk about that

MrD: And if mentioned he’d become upset?

OD: Yes

MrD: And he didn’t like staff to mention the fact he had diabetes?

OD: Yes that’s fair

Mr Dryden took Ms Davies to a page in the care plan

MrD: There’s the diabetes section, 4th point down, mentions difficulty Mr XXX had with regards to diabetes… does not like talking about diabetes and will become agitated if staff discuss with him…. That’s useful information contained in care plan for his future management?

OD: Yes it is

Mr Dryden then moved on to check whether having read Patient 4’s care plan that Ms Davies would have been aware of Patient 4 and how he presented. She confirmed that she could not specifically remember reading his care plan but she would have done, and when asked by Mr Dryden whether Patient 4 would exhibit “violent physical behaviour and be verbally aggressive”, she confirmed that he would.

Mr Dryden then took Ms Davies to another record and this followed:

MrD: Ms Davies you’re given document contained in Patient 4’s care plan, can you see at the top of page there, the plan is dated 18 Nov 2018?

OD: Yes

MrD: A month before you started work effectively. Can you recall, you may not be able to, seeing this specific document in the care plan?

OD: No, I can’t remember, sorry

MrD: This document outlines the physical behaviours of Mr XXX and verbal aggression, can you see that?

OD: Yes

MrD: There’s a whole list of behaviours exhibited by Mr XXX, mentions aggression towards others, staff, peers and public…. Throwing items into garden… also examples of his verbal aggression… threatening with objects, other patients, public including children… did you directly witness Mr XXX exhibiting any of this particular behaviour throughout your time?

OD: throughout my time?

MrD: Yes, throughout your 38 days there?

OD: Yes I did

HHJ: You’re not just talking verbal aggression are you? All of that?

MrD: I’ll go through it. Can you confirm, using the care plan as an aide memoire. Did you ever see Patient 4 kicking or punching anybody?

OD: Kicking yes, I can’t remember if he used his arms

MrD: What about Mr XXX biting anybody?

OD: I don’t remember biting

MrD: The Hall did have bite vests as a matter of course for staff to wear didn’t they?

OD: Yes they did

MrD: In terms of him throwing items, did you ever see any of that behaviour?

OD: No. I don’t remember throwing

MrD: In terms of verbal aggression, did you ever hear him threatening others with objects for example?

OD: I can’t say with objects, but threatening, verbal aggression yes.

MrD: He’d routinely threaten staff and other service users wouldn’t he?

OD: Yes

MrD: Were you ever outside The Hall with him when he threatened or made comments to members of the public or children?

OD: No

MrD: Did you find his behaviour intimidating?

OD: I didn’t really work all that closely with him, I worked with him occasionally but not a lot.

MrD: In terms of sexualised comments, did he ever make any sexualised comments to you?

OD: No

MrD: I know you’d work primarily with female service users, were you ever assigned to him specifically for a period of time?

OD: I remember he didn’t like me shadowing. When I started I was meant to shadow and watch how other support workers supported him, I can’t specifically remember, I might have.

MrD: You made reference in one of your video diaries to the incident where Mr XXX was restrained by members of staff in the corridor

OD: Yes

MrD: You mentioned it was very much a case of ‘here we go again’, that was your comment?

OD: Yes

MrD: Is it the case that Mr XXX was constantly involved with staff, verbal or physical aggression?

OD: Yes, not constantly, but quite often there would be restraints on Mr XXX

MrD: I’m not criticising Mr XXX, it was simply a manifestation of his various difficulties… he was on many occasions restrained by staff because of his behaviour?

OD: Yes, but I think one thing that struck me was [pauses] because he’s complex you could never, he would get irate over small things that you wouldn’t think would irritate him. So there was context of how he got so irate, for example someone saying diabetes to him, would upset him.

MrD: So because he was so complex it would be very difficult for a staff member to know when he may become violent or aggressive?

OD: Yes, but he was easy to wind up. I remember feeling as though the staff that were meant to be supporting him would wind him up because he was an easy target wand would quite easily get elevated quickly.

Mr Dryden moved on to ask Ms Davies if she were ever responsible for giving Patient 4 his medication, she was not. He then suggested that it was a “fairly regular occurrence” for staff members to be injured, something Ms Davies agreed. Asked about the process for reporting staff injuries, Ms Davies could not recall. Mr Dryden’s final questions were about the management at Whorlton Hall.

MrD: In terms of your working period at The Hall which is only 38 days, would you describe the establishment as being well run?

OD: No

MrD: The management structure was pretty non-existent wasn’t it?

OD: Yes from watching videos, its refreshed my memory, and yes I agree

MrD: There was no real oversight from management in terms of what the staff were doing was there?

OD: No, not really

MrD: And The Hall was understaffed wasn’t it?

OD: Yes, and agency workers, yes

MrD: And the service users all had very complex needs didn’t they?

OD: Yes they did

MrD: The people looking after the service users, the staff, they weren’t fully qualified to do that job were they?

HHJ: What do you mean by that Mr Dryden?

MrD: The staff working at The Hall, do you think from what you saw, they were equipped to deal with the complex nature of the service user’s conditions?

OD: No, I don’t, but I think as a support worker support is in the title. That’s the primary role of what you do and I didn’t think there was any support from the people that worked with service users.

MrD: Did you yourself feel you had enough training when you first went into Whorlton Hall?

OD: No

MrD: And you’d not had any previous experience of working in that sector had you?

OD: No I hadn’t

MrD: Thank you Ms Davies, I’ve no further questions.

The final counsel to cross examine Ms Davies was Mr Rooney, who represents Sabah Mahmood. He adopted the cross examination of the earlier defence counsel, and indicated he had four short topics he wished to ask Ms Davies questions about: medication known as PRN, care plans, Patient 7 and her family and Ms Davies’ qualifications.

Ms Davies confirmed that if PRN medication was required support workers would have to request a nurse to attend to administer it. She then confirmed that she read care plans over two days prior to actively working at Whorlton Hall.

Mr Rooney then discussed Patient 7 with her, asking her whether she remembered her, she did. Mr Rooney then took Ms Davies to Patient 7’s ‘PBS pen picture’ and asked her if she knew a number of facts about Patient 7’s family and background, all but one of which she did not. His final questions to Ms Davies were as follows:

MrR: During your time working at Whorlton Hall Patient 7 wasn’t visited by any of her family members was she?

OD: Not that I remember

MrR: Let’s turn to your qualifications then. I’m correct in thinking you’re not a trained psychologist are you?

OD: No

MrR: And you’re not a trained psychiatrist are you?

OD: No

MrR asked if she had any mental health nursing training and Ms Davies confirmed she did not.

MrR: So your experience is limited to just the 38 days of employment as a support worker is that correct?

OD: Yes

MrR: Thank you very much, no further questions.

Ms Richardson, the Crown prosecutor, had no re-examination, but HHJ Smith had a couple of clarifying questions about the training Ms Davies was provided.

HHJ: Can I ask you this Ms Davies, a moment ago, you said you yourself didn’t think you had enough training. Now you’d had some training by the BBC in advance, and some training by Cygnet on behalf of Whorlton Hall. Leaving aside the BBC training, just focusing on training provided by Cygnet, what additional training would you have wished to have from Cygnet before you started working? Put another way when you started do you remember thinking I wish someone had covered this before I started?

OD: probably more support, as a support worker, having other means of being able to talk to other people, and feel more supported.

HHJ: Do I understand you to mean by that, you talk about having more support, and talking to other people. Do you mean during a shift talking to someone else, or after a shift in way of dealing with your emotions, I’m not quite clear what you mean by that?

OD: Both those things, having somewhere, an outlet, more of a substantial outlet, as a coping strategy too.

HHHJ: to deal with the impact of the work?

OD: Yes

HHJ: in turns of undertaking your work as a support worker, not dealing with consequences of it, within the shift, were there areas you felt you’d not been given sufficient training?

OD: Yes

HHJ: What sort of skills was that covering?

OD: I didn’t, I think, I didn’t the way that you’re trained, and the complexity of the service users, I didn’t feel like it covered the extent of what to do if this happened, or how to react, because it is all hypothetical.

HHJ: It sounds as though you’re saying, although of course training was only hypothetically, in a different context, had hypothetically or editorial guidelines?

OD: Yes

HHJ: Focusing on the training as a support worker, it sounds as though you’re saying weren’t sufficient hypotheticals gone through, is that the assessment, is that a fair assessment?

OD: Yes that’s a fair assessment yes

HHJ: Does that extend to, by way of example, how to use secondary strategies?

OD: Yes and how to better use them, yes your honour

HHJ: And on the basis of what you said, I got the impression that was pretty much exclusively something you had to learn on the job?

OD: From other support workers yes

HHJ: Because there wasn’t really any training in secondary strategies?

OD: No, no.

There were no questions arising out of that.

Ms Davies was thanked for her time and asked not to discuss the questions she was asked, or the answers she gave, with anyone yet to give evidence.

Some discussion followed about the additional documents the jury had been given and where to store them, and the jury were then sent out for a break at 11:10.

After the break the next witness to give evidence was Mr Joe Plomin, the Panorama Producer. I’ll blog about that shortly.

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