Whorlton Hall Prosecution – 22 March 2023 DC Simms

The jury were brought into court shortly after 11am, welcomed back by HHJ Smith and explained that today they’d be hearing from Detective Constable Alex Simms, the Officer in Charge of the case. First he’d be cross examined, and then the court would listen to summaries of interviews and counsel would be invited to examine the same officer once their client’s interviews had been read, in turn. HHJ Smith also explained that he’d permitted some members of counsel to be absent from court on occasion where their clients interests would be looked after in their absence, and he just wanted to say that because the jury might note that some people might be missing.

DC Simms explained that there was a team of two working on the case, himself and DC Smith, who worked as the Disclosure Officer. Ms Richardson took him through the approach taken and DC Simms explained where the court had video exhibits he had prepared them, from the material provided to the police by the BBC Panorama team. He confirmed he was the lead interviewing officer in most, if not all, of the interviews conducted in relation to this case.

Ms Richardson explained to the jury that in due course they’d receive an “agreed facts” document, the contents of which included some photographs taken on 14 May 2019 by a crime scene investigator, that are agreed to be a true representation of Whorlton Hall on that date. She took DC Simms through them asking him to confirm where some of them were taken. She had no further questions for him.

Neither Mr Rutter for Peter Bennett or Mr Constantine for Matthew Banner had any questions for DC Simms at this stage.

Next up was Mr Walker, who asks questions on behalf of Sarah Banner. He said he’d ask questions predominantly related to Count 19 [all charges are reported here]. DC Simms confirmed that he had had the opportunity to review all of the notes prepared by Olivia Davies, the BBC Panorama reporter, and that he had “personally been through everyone’s care plans”. Mr Walker asked him if he’d had the opportunity to review the November 2018 document ‘Safe and Supportive Engagement Policy’. DC Simms said that he would have to see it and he didn’t believe he had but his disclosure officer may have.

Mr Walker read an extract from the policy and DC Simms confirmed he had read it.

MrW: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, would you turn to count 19 please… count 19 reads ill-treatment of a person in care. The particulars are Sarah Banner on the 25th day of January 2019 being an individual who had the care of another individual, namely Patient 4, by virtue of being a care worker did ill-treat the said Patient 4 by emptying his room of personal possessions as a punishment and deliberately bringing the items removed to his location intending to cause him distress. Those words will ring a bell with you?

DC S: Yes they do, yes

MrW: Thank you and as part of your presentation of this case, in early stage presentation you drafted a series of notes to assist Dr Tom Jackson, whose statement was read to the court, to pinpoint incidents relating to counts is that correct?

DC S: That’s correct

MrW: And you addressed what was shown in footage?

DC S: Yes

MrW: And no doubt what was said in interview or did that predate it?

DC S: First interviews were done in May two days after the programme, but nothing was put to the defendants at that point.

DC Simms confirmed that the “only material we relied upon was the footage which we prepared ourselves”. Mr Walker moved to discussing Patient 4 with DC Simms.

MrW: You’ll have carefully considered the individual challenges service users presented to the defendants in this case?

DC S: Yes

MrW: Without wishing to be in any way insulting to Patient 4 he presented significant challenges didn’t he?

DC S: I think it’s fair to say all the patients presented significant challenges, but yes Patient 4 did.

DC Simms agreed that all the patients would present with violence and Mr Walker then asked about Patient 4 making false allegations against staff.

MrW: And some, including Patient 4 presented employment challenges to the defendants. What I mean by that is, is it correct Patient 4 had false allegation markers against his name?

DC S: All patients had recorded against them that they could make false allegations against staff

MrW: Could, but Patient 4 did make them didn’t he?

DC S: Yes there was a recorded allegation… [missed bit]

MrW: Recorded against Patient 4 were repeated markers; it was said by Patient 4 he would ‘get staff members dismissed’

DC S: He certainly made allegations against the staff.

Mr Walker took the court to an exhibit from Danshell Adult Care relating to Patient 4, that covered the period late November, December 2018 to January 2019. Mr Walker took DC Simms to three occasions, one on 17 December 2018, one later in December, and another on 17 January, where it was reported that Patient 4 was heard to threaten staff that he would make an allegation against them.

MrW: On the 17th of January, a matter of six or seven days before the incident under review, count no 19, Patient 4 contacted the police by dialling 999 to inform them a staff member had pinched his arm. He later said he’d continue ringing the police all night. Were you familiar with that entry in the Danshell records of Patient 4?

DC S: I do recall him making allegations against staff to the police, the specific dates and time I appreciate are in there, but I don’t recall them

MrW: The 24th of January, the day before this incident took place, Patient 4 was refusing to hand over his mobile phone which he attempted to hide in his CD player… he became physically aggressive towards staff, attempting to hit staff, at that point restraint was employed. Restraint against Patient 4 is a feature of these records on a very regular basis?

DC S: Yes

DC Simms agreed with Mr Walker that on the day in question of count 9, 25 January 2019, Patient 4 had was restrained in the footage, and that it wasn’t his first restraint of the day.

MrW: There had been at least three on that day, just after 6pm on that day after making a call to his sister Patient 4 began to make threats of making false allegations against staff, although none were made. When you say all service users could make false allegations, Patient 4 is one that did?

DC S: Yes

MrW: Even making threats to make false allegations on the very day of this incident reflected in count number 19?

DC S: Yes

MrW: Items described in the particulars of this offense, visiting Patient 4’s room and emptying his room of personal possessions, that was both Olivia Davies and Sarah Banner wasn’t it?

DC S: Yes

MrW: And in fact when you reviewed the evidence relating to that footage, you describe removing property as a proportionate consequence of his behaviour?

DC S: Yes. Certain property needed to be removed for his own safety

MrW: So removing property in way was done was a proportionate response to what was happening?

DC S: Yes, they’d remove property if there were concerns he would harm with them

MrW: Completely in keeping with the Safe and Supportive Engagement Policy issued in November 2018?

DC S: Yes

MrW: No further questions, thank you.

Questioning then moved to Mr Normanton, who represents Karen McGhee. DC Simms explained that he dealt with Howard Kennedy, Cygnet’s solicitors who Mr Normanton clarified were a London based law firm instructed by Cygnet.

Mr Normanton confirmed with DC Simms that he was told in a letter from the solicitors firm that Whorlton Hall was operated by one company Cygnet DLL[didn’t catch], on behalf of another company Cygnet DH Ltd, which was itself ultimately owned by Cygnet Healthcare.

MrN: So three Cygnet companies in the structure to run Whorlton Hall, where these vulnerable people live?

DC S: Yes

MrN: Cygnet Healthcare is UK subsidiary of an American healthcare company?

DC S: Yes

MrN: Whorlton Hall though, was originally owned by a company called Danshell Healthcare?

DC S: Yes

MrN: Up to July 2018?

DC S: Yes

MrN: That was bought out by Cygnet that month?

DC S: Yes

MrN: I think what Howard Kennedy told us was Danshell was owned by a Guernsey Holding Company, bought out by Cygnet when they bought shares in that Guernsey Holding Company?

DC S: That seems correct, yes.

MrN: One of those Cygnet companies you’ve been liaising with through Howard Kennedy?

DC S: Yes

MrN: Do you know which one?

DC S: No

Mr Normanton told the court that it wouldn’t have escaped the jury’s notice that there was vast amounts of material in the case, and DC Simms confirmed that he was one of the people who looked through it all. He explained that Howard Kennedy sent the police scanned versions of the careplans used at Whorlton Hall for each patient, and that each bundle could be in excess of a thousand pages and there could be three or four bundles per patient.

On questioning by Mr Normanton, DC Simms confirmed that they did not receive original bundles of records.

MrN: And so to some, or perhaps a complete extent, we’re reliant on Cygnet scanning those documents, and putting the right documents in?

DC S: A decision was made when the programme first aired that it wouldn’t be appropriate to go to Whorlton Hall and seize the care plans,  as they were required to care for patients. So we had to use a proportionate approach. We contacted Cygnet via Howard Kennedy to ask for copies of those records for patients, to not affect the care plans, they’d follow the patients to their next residential placement when Whorlton Hall was closed.

MrN: I understand the necessity of that, but what we’ve got, we are reliant on what Cygnet have provided?

DC S: That’s right

MrN: Has there been a check of what Cygnet provided against original careplans?

DC S: No we’re reliant on Howard Kennedy a law firm acting on behalf of Cygnet, and Cygnet providing them.

MrN: Howard Kennedy are not acting on your instruction, they’re acting on Cygnet’s instruction?

DC S: Yes that’s right

MrN: So you have not had sight of instructions Cygnet have provided to Howard Kennedy?

DC S: No that would be legally privileged

DC Simms told the court that they had to get a Special Procedures Warrant in order to obtain information from Cygnet and the BBC. He explained that as the information contained details and private information, personal details of the patients and staff, both Cygnet and the BBC would require them to provide a production order, which he described as “standard procedure when dealing with this sort of information”. Asked if there was ever a point where he questioned the approach Cygnet took to providing information, DC Simms confirmed that there was not, and once the warrant was provided “Cygnet would hand over the material we asked for, they never pushed back on us other than one occasion”.

Mr Normanton flagged that there is a corporate alternative to the wilful neglect charge that his client is charged with, and he asked DC Simms whether he was concerned that Cygnet would limit material in order to protect themselves. DC Simms replied “It’s a possibility…. if Cygnet want to put themselves in that position… it’s a massive company”.

Mr Normanton moved on to discussing the Safeguarding Adults Board investigation that followed the BBC Panorama into Whorlton Hall. DC Simms confirmed that the Police had gained access to the Safeguarding Adults Board and that they had been provided with access to draft reports.

The jury were then sent out for a mid morning break. On their return Mr Normanton moved on to discussing documents in relation to specific service users.

DC Simms confirmed that these documents were extracted from the information sent by Howard Kennedy on behalf of Cygnet. Mr Normanton took DC Simms through some of the documents including a Person Centred Statement, a Positive Behaviour Support Plan and a Psychology Report for Patient 1. DC Simms answered no, in response to Mr Normanton’s question “other than this being provided with other materials by Cygnet do we have any other evidence that tells us this was part of her careplan?”

When suggested by Mr Normanton that there was no reference in several of Patient 1’s documents to men, DC Simms responded “No reference other than in her passport… but I do believe it was well known within the home that she did not like men”.

Mr Normanton then took DC Simms through what the care plans said should be done if there were an incident involving Patient 1. These included the nurse scrutinising any records, entering details into her care plan in a progress note, with times of the event and person’s involved, and also the nurse to complete a debrief of the incident with staff involved as soon as possible.

Mr Normanton then moved onto questioning DC Simms about incident reporting. He confirmed that the police had been provided with the incidents recording system data.

MrN: What they provided to police were all incidents, for example that mention Karen McGhee?

DC S: Yes we asked for all incidents involving patients and defendants for dates for our specified investigation

MrN: Did Cygnet say what their protocol was for recording all names of staff at a restraint?

DC S: No, unfortunately not

MrN: So we don’t know if what Cygnet provided was an exhaustive list of attendances by Karen McGhee?

DC S: It’s fair to say if her name wasn’t put on the system I won’t have it, I believe

MrN: But what you received, one of spreadsheets you received, a dense 63 page spreadsheet of restraints where Karen McGhee’s name was mentioned as being present

DC S: Yes, we received incident data for everybody. The version you have is 63, we had for all defendants, and we separated it.

HHJ: so you think Mr Normanton has only got the document relating to his client?

MrN: Yes that’s right, and we accept that. The document we received disclosed contains great deal of detail about each restraint doesn’t it?

DC S: Yes

MrN: And that’s why its 63 pages long

DC S: Yes

Mr Normanton then took the witness through some examples of the restraints recorded in the spreadsheet and DC Simms confirmed the entries. Examples given to the court included a service user telling Karen McGhee that they would break her nose the next time they saw her, a service user punching Karen McGhee in the face and later striking her with their knee – injury recorded bruising, a service user throwing a bowl and spoon at Karen McGhee and grabbing her on the left breast – injury recorded bruising, a service user scratching Karen McGhee on the nose – injury recorded break in skin. These incidents all occurred earlier in 2018. When Mr Normanton moved to incidents around the time allegations are made against Karen McGhee examples included service user being verbally abusive towards her, throwing a phone at her injuring her jaw line, a service user attempting to punch her, scratching of her hand, a service user threatening to rape her.

MrN: We’ll hear some other evidence in relation to this in due course, but its right that Karen McGhee didn’t become a Senior Staff Nurse until 14 February 2019 isn’t it?

DC S: Yes

MrN: So before that time we’re dealing with, she was a Staff Nurse?

DC S: Yes

In discussing the numbers of nurses at Whorlton Hall, Mr Normanton suggested from the records he’d seen and rotas there were two Charge Nurses, three Senior Staff Nurses and two Staff Nurses. DC Simms agreed with that and added that both the managers, Stephen Robdrup the Deputy Manager, and Chris Shield the Manager, were also nurses.

Mr Normanton’s final line of questioning was about the job descriptions that DC Simms received. He confirmed that he received the job description for the Senior Staff Nurse but he did not have a job description for a Staff Nurse, and Mr Normanton told the court that the document they had did not apply to Karen McGhee at the time of the allegations against her, which DC Simms confirmed.

That was all of Mr Normanton’s questions and then it was over to Mr Knox who represents Ryan Fuller. He started his questions before lunch and continued afterwards.

Mr Knox checked with DC Simms that he was “the officer who really was very much the person who knew from start to finish what happened in this inquiry”, DC Simms agreed. Mr Knox checked with DC Simms that the police photographs of Whorlton Hall were taken on the 14 May 2019, they were.

MrK: Would that be pretty close after you were aware that this inquiry had started?

DC S: Yes I think it was 3 May, very early May we were made aware, through the County Council I believe about Whorlton Hall

MrK: Would I be right in thinking this, by time you came onto the scene, the patients, I’ll call them patients, they had actually been almost all moved on had they not?

DC S: Yes, there were a few patients left in there, but they’d mostly been moved on

MrK: A lot of empty bedrooms, one or two occupied, but by and large the place had emptied by the time you went to see it?

DC S: Yes

MrK: You therefore rely on the documents that were supplied, you didn’t go in and seize everything from the premises, that wasn’t the policy position, I’m not being in any way critical of it

DC S: We didn’t seize anything from the home, I did go in with CSI, to get a feel for the place

Mr Knox checked with DC Simms that all patients were detained at Whorlton Hall and not allowed to leave.

MrK: They were all detained under the Mental Health Act, except on one occasion detained under Section 3

DC S: Yes

MrK: Section 3 is the basis on which someone is effectively deprived of their liberty on the basis that their mental conditions is such that they’re not well enough to live in society without risk to themselves or other people?DC S: Yes, they were detained in the home, they weren’t allowed to leave.

MrK: Would rely on the evidence of two experts, almost always psychiatrists

DC S: I’ll say yes but I don’t know personally

MrK: You know under the Act need to have two approved people, don’t have to always be psychiatrists, but pretty much usually are

DC S: Yes

MrK: And those have to be renewed every 6 months do they not?

DC S: I’ll have to pass, I don’t know

MrK: Each of the patients, there are reports about the reason why they are to be effectively detained

DC S: Yes there must be, otherwise they can’t be detained I’d assume

MrK: Do you have those documents?

DC S: No

MrK: They’ve never been supplied to you by Cygnet?

DC S: We’ve never asked for them

Mr Knox moved on to ask about the resident psychiatrist, DC Simms said that the name sounded familiar. Asked if he knew precisely which psychiatrist or psychiatrists authorised the detention of the patients at Whorlton Hall, DC Simms said that he did not, and that it was not relevant to the inquiry. He told the court that only one or two patients at Whorlton Hall were from County Durham, and the others had come “from all over the country”.

After lunch Mr Knox asked DC Simms about an earlier version of a positive behaviour support plan for Patient 1, and he confirmed that there are different versions of plan relating to the same person.

MrK: We’ve got Versions 1 and 3. The point really is this, following on from what you were telling my learned friend this morning, would this be right, you can not be actually sure, at what stage each of these versions, so to speak, were the current version in the care file in the home the staff had access to?

DC S: I can only go off the form, the front of the form which says when the plans was in place but obviously I don’t know because I wasn’t in the home at the times, as to what was in the bundles.

Mr Knox then moved on to question DC Simms about staffing at Whorlton Hall.

MrK: I was asking you this morning about a number of what I might describe as general matters, you were I think aware there were issues, you’ve told us about the logs of who was on duty at particular times?

DC S: We have a spreadsheet that shows all staff that worked at the home. It has columns which dictate hours staff were working on that particular day, is spreadsheet for each month at the home basically

MrK: Can I raise this with you. There was a CQC unannounced visit to the hospital on the 7 and 8 March 2018

HHJ checks the date

MrK: At that time the report was, you’ve seen that report?

DC S: Yes

MrK: I’ll not take you to it in detail, would you accept this, it said there were concerns about this, first of all records of staff 25 times in the 3 months they looked at which was December 17 to February 18, were 25 occasions in which a member of staff worked a 24 hour shift

DC S: Yes there were concerns raised by the CQC that the hours worked were long

MrK: Were they also concerned was a high staff turnover, they talked about 28%

DC S: Yes, would appear they struggled to get staff to work at the hospital so they had a reliance on agency staff  

MrK: CQC said 821 shifts were covered by agency staff

DC S: If that’s what it said

MrK: CQC arrived, asked to see all the documents and that’s the analysis they produced

DC S: Yes

HHJ: the 821 shifts Mr Knox, that is to say there were appropriately 90 days they looked at in the 3 months, and each day would require a certain number of members of staff to be onsite

MrK: Yes

HHJ: Each member of staff per day would count as a shift

MrK: Yes

HHJ: That’s how you can get a higher number of shifts, 821, than days

Mr Knox confirms that is the case.

HHJ: What’s the total number of shifts for that period?

MrK: They don’t tell us that, what they do say is in February 2017, the previous year 41% of shifts had been covered by agency staff. In fairness you produced schedules and the figures weren’t as high as that?

DC S: No

HHJ: for the period we’re looking at this was a CQC inspection?

MrK: An unannounced visit about 9 months before

Questioning moved on to the number of patients living at Whorlton Hall which DC Simms confirmed was 13 prior to Panorama notifying Cygnet of the undercover investigation “once the BBC notified Cygnet were in the process of closing the home and finding new places for people” and there were only a couple of patients there in May when the police arrived.

After a short break it was explained to the jury that work would be ongoing over the next day or so to pull together some additional pages for the jury bundle.

Mr Knox’s finished his cross examination of DC Simms by asking him about an incident on 2 February 2019 where his client was assaulted by Patient 8. Mr Fuller was head butted and punched and a complaint, or information was passed to the police, to make a record of it. DC Simms confirmed that was the case.

MrK: The police wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, but it was a significant incident to be recorded

DC S: Yes

His final question was in relation to Patient 2 and a number of incidents where she had been aggressive towards staff. DC Simms explained that there was a document that recorded if patients were aggressive towards other residents or staff.

After Mr Knox it was Mr Patton’s turn to ask questions, he represents Niall Mellor.

Mr Patton started by suggesting that his client was one of the youngest defendants, which DC Simms agreed, along with John Sanderson.

MrP: At the time he was working at Whorlton Hall he was a university student?

DC S: Yes

MrP: At a local university?

DC S: Yes I believe so

MrP: And he was working part time?

DC S: Yes

MrP: Mostly weekends

DC S: Yes

MrP: And sometimes in the holidays?

DC S: Yes

MrP: So he’d work probably two shifts at the weekend?

DC S: Yes, without looking at the staff rota Mr Mellor wasn’t there as much as the others

MrP: He’s a man of good character, he has no previous convictions?

DC S: Yes that’s correct

Mr Patton suggested to DC Simms that he’d lived this case since May 2019, and DC Simms confirmed that he’d had this case as well as others, but this had been his since the beginning. He said as Officer in Charge he needed to know more about the case than anyone else involved. Mr Patton suggested that he had to deal with the BBC, with Cygnet Healthcare and the CQC, DC Simms agreed.

In response to a question about when the video footage arrived DC Simms said that it “took about a month after Panorama aired… had to apply for a warrant, obtain it from the BBC, they were still working with the footage so we got it in two or three batches, we didn’t get it all at once”. He told the court that it arrived from early June onwards for the rest of 2019.

Mr Patton said that in a normal, local case, such as a fight in the street, the police would immediately get access to all local CCTV, but this didn’t happen here. DC Simms agreed saying that the BBC were editing out things such as toilet breaks, when Olivia was preparing her notes or camera testing. Asked by Mr Patton if he’d ever seen the device used to film the footage DC Simms responded that he had not, “No, they understandably, like the police wouldn’t, haven’t shared the device they used, or make and model”.

Mr Patton then asked DC Simms about the material provided by CQC:

MrP: Did you discover a number of unpublished reports they had?

DC S: From memory at least one unpublished report that the CQC didn’t publish and received some criticism for not publishing

MrP: Because it’s quite critical isn’t it?

DC S: Yes

MrP: About how this home is run?

DC S: Yes

MrP: From 2015

DC S: I believe so

HHJ: that’s the date of the report?

DC S: The report is prepared but unpublished

MrP: Did you discover there had in fact been a whistleblower called Niall Mellor that had provided them with information?

DC S: There’s a number of whistleblowers CQC made us aware of

MrP: He has been a whistleblower himself hasn’t he, Niall Mellor?

DC S: Not being awkward but I would like to check

MrP: I’m going to suggest to you. He’s been a whistleblower within the institution and the CQC

DC S: I’m not aware from Cygnet of him being a whistleblower, I would like to check about the CQC

Mr Patton moved on to question DC Simms about the way in which Cygnet is governed and run, how regulated care is provided and the rights of the patients, touching on advocacy.

MrP: Many people subject of mental health detention, may not have families living nearby?

DC S: Yes as I said earlier lot of patients were from all over the country

MrP” Some of them may not be able to articulate what was going on in their case?

DC S: Yes, particularly in relation to Patient 2, she was borderline non-verbal

MrP: In relation to patients who are subject of such an order, statute requires them to have access to an advocate, not a barrister

DC S: Yes

MrP: A mental health advocate. Each patient had access to a mental health advocate?

DC S: Yes, I believe so

MrP: And each would have availability to give them instructions and tell them what was happening to themselves?

DC S: Yes I believe so

MrP: That position, was responsibility of advocate to relay to those detaining them if they were unhappy with their treatment?

DC S: Yes

MrP: If they felt they weren’t improving for particular reasons?

DC S: If they could articulate it yes

MrP: Or if they had unmet needs?

DC S: Again, if they could articulate it, yes

MrP: And for people where it’s more challenging to communicate, they have specialist Independent Mental Health Advocates don’t they?

DC S: I believe so

MrP: Who have significant training in dealing with people with those disabilities?

DC S: I believe so

MrP: And they have opportunity on a weekly basis to communicate with the institution don’t they?

DC S: Yes

DC Simms said that he couldn’t name the people in the multi disciplinary team but when Mr Patton suggested that it would contain the psychiatrist, a psychologist, members of nursing staff and an advocate, he agreed that he believed so.

Mr Patton asked DC Simms whether the MDT met weekly and he agreed.

MrP: On a weekly basis the MDT team would meet to discuss progress or otherwise of each of patient?

DC S:Yes

MrP: So if had a bad week and things are going downhill, that’s an opportunity to find out about it?

DC S: Yes if they can articulate it

MrP: Or opportunity for staff to take care plan notes and examine it

DC S: Yes these meetings where anything that was documented by staff, notes used to amend care plans, add to things, take things away, believe this meeting is where it would occur

MrP: And patient can, and often is, asked to attend meetings to explain what’s going on?

DC S: Yes if they can articulate it

MrP: Some may not be able to

DC S: From footage I viewed I’d say at least 10 wouldn’t be able to

Mr Patton suggests that perhaps DC Simms ought to be careful about stating that and he agrees, telling the court that he is not an expert. When asked by Mr Patton, DC Simms tells the court that they did not have access to the MDT assessments because they’d form part of the patients medical records and they were not something that they had ever asked for. Moving back to advocacy Mr Patton asks DC Simms if the police have been able to identify who the advocates are for the patients subject to involuntary detention.

DC S: I believe if we asked Cygnet for the information they’d have provided it but we’ve never asked for it

MrP: So you know as a team they had capacity to access an advocate throughout the period we’re concerned with?

DC S: Yes

MrP: You don’t know whether they did access them or not?

DC S: No

DC Simms responded to Mr Patton’s questions confirming that there are care progress notes completed daily, and that from the footage he’d viewed there were handover meetings at the start of each shift where the nurse would explain any issues that had occurred on prior shift, and what to expect.

Mr Patton asks DC Simms questions about those who are detained being a risk to the public, and says he kindly disclosed the Mental Capacity Act Codes of Practice in his disclosure “which I dare say you have read”, DC Simms confirmed he had.

MrP: We don’t detain people in this country because they’ve got learning disabilities on their own?

DC S: No

MrP: Here it happens under the Act when they exhibit what’s descrebed as abnormally aggressive behaviour

DC S: Yes

MrP: A lot of patients here, you’ve had seen from the footage, did exhibit abnormally aggressive behaviour

Dc Simms says patients could have exhibited some very challenging behaviour

Mr Patton asks if he has seen all the footage

DC S: I’d say I’ve watched about 75%… I’ve created all exhibits given to you as well as supporting clips, and other clips created as part of this investigation

MrP: You’ve seen on many occasions some of the people in the dock behind me have been physically attacked by some of these patients haven’t they?

DC S: Yes

MrP: One of the things I want to ask you about in relation to the staff here, is when they were physically attacked they didn’t respond with violence did they?

DC S: No, no. The staff certainly didn’t strike back or anything like that, the staff would restrain the patients when they became violent

DC Simms agreed, in response to a question from Mr Patton, that none of the footage from the BBC was timed, and that the only way of establishing time was if there was a clock shown in the footage, or working out what shift Olivia Davies was working that day.

The final counsel to cross examine DC Simms was Ms Brown, who asks questions on behalf of Darren Lawton. She starts by taking DC Simms to a ‘Segregation Reduction Care Plan’ for Patient 6 and asking if it was the only care plan the police were given for this patient. DC Simms confirms that it was not and the other care plans may be listed in the unused material schedule, or as exhibits that don’t appear within the bundle.

MsB: It may be me, we may need for you to have some time to find it, I can’t find another care plan on the unused material schedule, might it be somewhere else?

DC S: It might be an exhibit, will only be in two places, either an exhibit or in unused material

MsB: Mr Lawton will say this segregation reduction careplan ran alongside other careplans, does that accord with your recollection?

DC S: I have definitely seen other careplans for Patient 6, in addition to the one seen in this bundle

HHJ Smith suggested that it might be something DC Simms could look at overnight.

Ms Brown moved onto the fact that Darren Lawton had surrendered his mobile phone to the police when he was arrested on 24 May 2019, and asked DC Simms what the police would be looking for on phones. DC Simms told the court that they were aware that all staff were contacted by the BBC asking for comment, between the end of the filming and the Panorama documentary being aired. He explained that it may be that staff had text each other, that there may be relevant pictures, and that they took phones as standard, to see if there was anything that might assist the investigation. Ms Brown confirmed with DC Simms that with respect to her clients phone, nothing of note was found.

Ms Brown than asked DC Simms about one particular incident:

MsB: There are a number of clips where you see Darren Lawton talking to Olivia about residents in an inappropriate or rude manner, you’re aware of those?

DC S: Yes, some of them form exhibits in this case

MsB: Yes, it is one of those I’d like to ask you to answer questions about

Ms Brown takes DC Simms and the jury to a transcript, HHJ Smith confirms the record

MsB: DC Simms you may recall this is a discussion where it’s claimed by Darren Lawton that he cancelled Christmas for Patient 6, do you recall that?

DC S: I recognise the clip

MsB: In this clip there are a number of potential reasonable lines of inquiry I suggest, it’s mentioned Alex Hall was present, was he spoken to about this incident?

DC S: No he wasn’t

MsB: We’ve also heard Patient 6 has CCTV, it was reviewed for a number of dates wasn’t it?

DC S: Yes

MsB: But Christmas Day of 2018 was not one of those dates was it? I appreciate I’m asking you from memory

DC S: I don’t believe it was, believed investigation timescale was from January 2019 up until May 2019, no sorry tell a lie January 2018 to May 2019

MsB: We’ll hear interviews in due course, when asked about this, Mr Lawton said he’d told a nurse about what had happened, no inquiries to speak to nurse…. is there any reason why inquiries were not undertaken?

DC S: Was CCTV footage of Darren Lawton saying what he said, there was no reason to speak to witnesses, they came out of Darren Lawton’s mouth… what more? We didn’t believe we needed more evidence from what was there at the time. Alex Hall is also the partner of one of the defendants so there’s also a question of whether his evidence could be relied upon.

MsB: Was it because there was no reasonable expectation that a criminal offence had been committed?

DC S: No I would say obviously not, because we’ve charged on this incident as one of the ill-treatment

MsB: Thank you officer, no further questions

There were no questions from Mr Dryden for John Sanderson or Mr Rooney for Sabah Mahmood.

The case continues tomorrow.

Write a reply or comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *