Whorlton Hall Prosecution – Prosecution Closing

Ms Anne Richardson started her closing by telling the ladies and gentlemen of the jury that they would be very relieved to know that this would probably be the last time they’d hear her voice in this trial “you’ve heard a great deal of my voice in the last few weeks”.

She told the jury that in 1949 George Orwell wrote his seminal book about a dystopian world 1984 where thought police were able to arrest citizens on the basis of their thoughts and private conversations. She said thankfully that never happened, at least not in this country, and that we’re a far cry from that now, and we were a far cry from it in 2019 when this prosecution began.

Ms Richardson told the jury that this prosecution is not, as some would have them believe, trying to criminalise humour. She said that everyone needs to decompress after a hard day’s work, and that some of us are “lucky enough to work with colleagues who enjoy a laugh and a banter”. She went on to tell the jury that there are many people who work in a profession where they are unable to tell their loved ones about their day, she drew the parallel to the jury members who themselves have been warned by the judge not to tell anyone about the case, “your fellow jurors are the only people who you can talk to about it”.

The comments you’ve heard on those clips are not set in the context of a playground or pub or private home, they are said at their place of work. Where patients require, and deserve, to be free from ill-treatment in whatever form that takes.

Ms Richardson acknowledged “something called gallows humour” and reminded the jury that they had heard more than one defendant say that if they didn’t laugh they would cry.

You may well say it’s all well and good for the prosecutor to criticise, what does she know about being in daily risk of being attacked? It’s true, I’ve been a barrister for 40 years and I’ve only had the threat of attack on a handful of occasions, and even then there are people employed to stand between me and would be attacker to ensure the smooth running of the courts.

Ms Richardson told the jury that the workers of Whorlton Hall weren’t the only people with stressful jobs, and she asked the jury to bring to mind teachers trying to contain a classroom of unruly teenagers who didn’t wish to be there, but they can’t hit back. Or A&E staff in the early hours of the morning dealing with a drunken person, being abusive and spitting while they were trying to care for them, or lawyers dealing with child sexual abuse and rape cases, dealing day to day with the case “where the sheer horror weighs heavy on your mind”. She offered more examples, police officers and prison officers, those in the armed forces “going into situations where the public would say let them go, that is a stressful job”.

Ms Richardson told the jury that

  • the patients in Whorlton Hall weren’t there through choice
  • couldn’t go home
  • couldn’t see their families when they wished
  • couldn’t go to the shops or pop to the pub for a quick pint if they wanted.

Ms Richardson told the jury that the patients had done nothing wrong to be in Whorlton Hall.

She said that the court had heard lots about the patients, most if not all were volatile verbally, sometimes if not often physically aggressive. She said that the documents the court had seen about patients had by and large come from the prosecution, that the Crown doesn’t shy away from how difficult these patients were and what difficulties they presented, and that there could be no doubt that the staff in Whorlton Hall were working under pressure.

I opened the case on the basis being carers was not an easy job, and certainly not a well paid job.

Ms Richardson said that it may be suggested that there were others in the clips the jury had seen who ought to be in the dock with the defendants, and she then used the example of someone stopped by the police for speeding, when the person in front of them was doing the same speed or more, they feel aggrieved, but she told the jury that their duty in this case is to consider the evidence that we have seen and heard.

Ms Richardson told the members of the jury that only they could decide whether it was fair for the defendants to appear in this trial. Only they could decide how they appeared to them when giving evidence, making allowances for the stress of their own criminal trial, whether their demeanour is a true reflection.

They are not rapists, or murders, they haven’t robbed elderly people… or supplied drugs to children… aside from a driving incident of Darren Lawton they don’t have a prosecution amongst them… it might be said why is the court being bothered with this one?

Ms Richardson told the court that the patients at Whorlton Hall, through no fault of their own, are unable to give evidence, and that the Crown brings this case because through the clips that the BBC produced, these are matters that need the jury’s consideration. She pointed out that this is a criminal trial, it is not a BBC, or any other network, programme.

Patients themselves don’t have a voice, so it is for you to decide whether what was done to them amounts to deliberate inexcusable acts of ill-treatment.

You don’t have to decide whether or not Whorlton Hall was a well managed establishment… nor do you have to decide whether or not it was wholly wrong for the company that ran Whorlton Hall to receive large sums of money for each patient, given staff who cared for them received low wages and worked long hours…. nor do you have to decide whether Joe Plomin… employed Olivia Davies…. and did so in order to further his career and make a sensationalist documentary.

You might be forgiven for being sidetracked from your task by smoke and mirrors.

Ms Richardson told the jury that of course they would need to consider the environment in which the defendants were working, and the extent to which the staff were assisted by training.

At the end of the day as Olivia Davies said in her evidence, you don’t need training to treat somebody nicely.

Ms Richardson told the jury that they’d heard about the effect this documentary and prosecution had had on the defendant’s lives. She said “I make it absolutely plain, the prosecution does not condone in any shape or form any violence on a defendant’s person or property” and referenced the fact that the footage had evoked such strong feelings can not influence your decision. She told the jury that they shouldn’t approach it on the basis of what they would want if it was one of their relatives.

You must concentrate purely on the evidence you’ve heard.

Ms Richardson told the jury that they had heard within that evidence about the existence of a weekly multidisciplinary team meeting on a Tuesday, considering each patient at least on a monthly basis.

It would appear, like so much more at Whorlton Hall, that was what was supposed to happen and reality was far from expectation.

Ms Richardson said that the jury members would decide, if it would assist them in their verdict, whether any patients were capable of raising concerns in those meetings, whether they were aware of their rights despite the posters on the walls advising them, and given they were often attended by careworkers to the meetings, whether the would have felt capable of expressing any dissatisfaction with their treatment.

Ms Richardson also suggested that the jury might also decide whether or not patients were capable of sitting through meetings and she reminded the court that they had heard evidence no defendant regularly attended those meetings, and whilst it was said patients could attend, none except Patient 4 did attend on a regular basis and we were told that his behaviour would escalate to the extent that he would be routinely excluded from those meetings. Ms Richardson also said that Patient 4 was someone who the court had been told “has a history of making false complaints” and so “even if he had made a complaint how was he to believed against that background?”

Ms Richardson said that the prosecution submit that there was a culture within Whorlton Hall, and she reminded the jury of Mr Sanderson’s words in his police interview which the jury were taken to yesterday, “I felt like I had no choice, you either fitted in or were cast out”. She reminded the jury that Mr Sanderson told the court that he had gone to management for support and that he said he had no choice but to do what he was told to do.

The prosecution submits that his answer in interview in 2019, to that question, is exactly what it says. At Whorlton Hall you fitted in or you were cast out.

Ms Richardson said that many clips the court had seen “involved extensive use of very explicit swear words” and she also made clear that the prosecution “does not seek to criminalise letting off steam”. Ms Richardson said that it is not a criminal offence to use bad language, it might not be professional or appropriate and in the cold light of day it may have led to some defendants feeling disgust or shame at their use of it.

Prosecution submits that what we’re witnessing within those clips is the true behaviour of those defendants and their contempt for those within their charge.

She told the jury that if they felt such language was justified, either because “patients needed speaking to at their level” or it “was simply a defendant decompressing” that “then you’ll no doubt come to the conclusion that such language was not part and parcel of ill-treatment”. However, she said, to suggest that patients didn’t see or hear it, was besides the point.

The Crown does not need to prove the ill-treatment caused any harm to any patient.

Ms Richardson said that some patients were emotionally labile, their mood’s variable, and that the court had heard evidence at times that Patient 1 liked balloons, she told the jury that “it was clear in the clips taken that she did not like balloons, for whatever reason”. Ms Richardson said that Peter Bennett and Matthew Banner knew this, and that others who have not been charged in respect of ill-treatment of Patient 1 in respect of balloons, also knew it.

Ms Richardson told the court that dislikes and phobias are strange things, telling the court that she has a phobia of snakes, so much so that even saying the word causes her discomfort. She told the court “mad as it may sound if you were to put a sock on your hand and hiss” she would eventually break down and cry. She said if that were done inadvertently then it is an accident, “but it’s not the same as in this case. I am not a patient, however to wind me up all you’d need to say is snakes and hiss. I don’t have mental health problems… I didn’t have the schizoaffective disorder and autism that Patient 1 does”.

Ms Richardson then discussed the known preference for women on Patient 1’s observations, referencing the evidence of Patient 1’s mother, which intimated that it could be due to her experience in a previous placement. She told the jury that the very mention of the man button would be enough to escalate Patient 1’s behaviour. She also drew to the jury’s attention that others knew about the man button, but it was only Peter Bennett who knew the meaning of it and was able to describe it in detail.

Ms Richardson said that although it is acknowledged that Patient 1 could not always have only females on her observations, Counts 1, 2 and 3 are not times when there were insufficient females. Ms Richardson told the jury that they had seen the footage of Peter Bennett telling the female staff members to go and that he and Matthew Banner would deal with things “his behaviour causing an escalation in Patient 1’s anxiety”.

You’ve seen Matthew Banner sitting in his chair outside Patient 1’s room as she screams and becomes increasingly agitated. Matthew Banner, says the prosecution, is shouting out quite deliberately make it three men, four men, five men… not in an effort that she calms down, or so that she knows if she doesn’t calm down that’s what will happen, but to torment her.

As in Count 5 where he mocks Patient 1.


Because he can. Because he knows Patient 1 doesn’t like him in particular, but she can do nothing about it.

Ms Richardson told the jury that Counts 8 and 9 are not times when an appropriate sanction was suggested if Patient 1 did not calm down, but as punishment for her behaviour. She referenced the way and manner the threat of male carers was said by Karen McGhee in Counts 8 and 9 and by Sarah Banner and Ryan Fuller in Count 9.

Being in such a state of anxiety and escalation that you continually hit your own face, must be stressful enough for the person witnessing it, not least to be doing it yourself.

Then being told to continue, and laughing at it, is not reverse psychology which brought Patient 1 back to baseline as Ms Banner said, in fact Patient 1 continued to scream.

The fact Ms Banner says she wasn’t laughing at Patient 1 but at something Ryan Fuller said, does not assist Patient 1, and it’s not the last time we see Sarah Banner laughing at Patient 1.

Ms Richardson acknowledged that Patient 1’s screaming was piercing. She told the jury that the prosecution doesn’t doubt it could become intolerable for staff at times, but that laughing at her, saying it’s like she’s possessed, or asking her if she was casting a spell, is not the prosecution suggests, reverse psychology or banter, but was simply cruel.

At that point the court adjourned for lunch.

After lunch Ms Richardson moved on to Patient 2, who she told the jury “couldn’t communicate verbally and certainly on the clips that we have seen appeared to live in her own world for much of the time, you may think she was something of an easy target to mock or get to stick her fingers up”. Ms Richardson said that speaking French to a woman who could understand, but speak only a few words of English, was the prosecution submit a “deliberate act of mockery to allow Mr Bennett to get a cheap laugh out of others around at the time”.

Ms Richardson told the jury that Mr Bennett has said he had no idea why he spoke French, saying it was “possibly a diversion technique” but she asked the jury to bear in mind this was when he was sat outside on a chair he raised himself up to frighten Patient 2, which he told the court was a preemptive action on his part before Patient 2 could attack him.

A man who knew he was in control, liked to be in control and liked to show he was to Patient 2 as a way of asserting his dominance over her.

Ms Richardson then turned to the single count that involved Patient 3, Count 14, where she told the jury Ryan Fuller encourages Patient 3 to use his middle finger “like something out of a school yard you might think”. She said they had seen the clip where Mr Fuller was having his photograph taken with Patient 3.

Whether he appreciated it or not, given his mental health difficulties and autism, the prosecution say Mr Fuller was having a laugh at his expense, appearing as Mr Fuller said himself when discussing with another staff member ‘don’t do that, delete it, I’ll get fucked’ he knew he was doing wrong.

Ms Richardson said that in some instances, for example, Patient 4 there were underlying facts that were not disputed, such as Patient 4 having diabetes and not liking being reminded of it or to take his medication. Ms Richardson said that in general asking a patient to take medication they needed would not be classed as ill-treating that patient “course it wouldn’t, but when you look at the circumstances of how he was asked, and how often”, particularly when staff knew he didn’t like it, Ms Richardson said that it becomes ill-treatment.

Mocking his reaction, laughing at his anxiety, deliberately winding him up, is cruelty.

The jury were then told by Ms Richardson that some defendants have suggested it was banter between patients and themselves but “banter presupposes a conversation between equals”. She said that Patient 1 might be intelligent, but the jury will consider clips where she has “no control whatsoever over her emotions or actions”. She asked the jury to consider whether she, or any other patient, were on an equal footing with those caring for them.

Mockery is not a distraction technique. We saw where Ms McGhee said to Patient 1, ‘I like your nails, where did you have them done’, that is a distraction technique, mocking someone is not.

Ms Richardson told the jury that in some circumstances they would have to decide whether circumstances rendered something to be ill-treatment. The example she gave was when Patient 4’s belongings were removed from his room, the prosecution contends as punishment, she told the jury that there would no doubt be certain circumstances where that would not be punishment. She told the jury that all three defendants, Karen McGhee, Ryan Fuller and Sarah Banner have told the court that Patient 4’s items needed to be removed.

The prosecution point to the way in which that removal happened, not quietly to ensure Patient 4 didn’t escalate further.

Ms Richardson said it was first suggested, loudly, by Ryan Fuller whilst he was holding Patient 4 on the floor in a restraint, it was then reiterated by Karen McGhee and carried out by Sarah Banner. The prosecution submits it was clear from what Ms Banner said to Olivia Davies as the two women walked upstairs, what was on her mind, that she intended to go past Patient 4 with his items so that he could see them. Ms Richardson told the jury that Ms Banner suggests that was necessary for her safety, to ensure allegations were not made against her, but Ms Richardson reminded the jury that she had also told them that a second member of staff was required to be present to insure against such allegations. Ms Richardson said that the prosecution say it is a deliberate act of taunting and ill-treatment, and the fact that Ms Banner was stopped from walking past Patient 4 by Ms McGhee does not negate that.

Ms Richardson told the jury that they had the actions of these defendants in irrefutable form, clips of footage, and that they didn’t have to depend on what one witness said or another.

You have to decide. You have the clips.

The Crown submits each defendant had in mind inexcusable intention to ill-treat those patients… they were reckless as to whether or not they ill-treated those patients.

Ms Richardson told the jury that they had heard a great deal about Patient 4, and that despite his height, he could be physically aggressive, that they had heard him becoming agitated, continually swearing and generally escalating.

Prosecution submits, particularly with the male defendants charged against Patient 4, he was so, so easy to make fun of.

Ms Richardson made reference to the numerous clips the jury have seen of John Sanderson and Niall Mellor mimicking Patient 4’s speech.

You heard yesterday in 4 letter detail what John Sanderson said about him.

Ms Richardson said that Mr Sanderson said that it was bravado.

It would appear from their evidence Ms Davies was something of a siren for more than one male defendant, luring them into saying things they wouldn’t have said if they didn’t want to impress her.

Ms Richardson said that Niall Mellor repeatedly asking Patient 4 to put his pyjamas on, and Mr Mellor’s reactions when he said it, the prosecution submit was clear that he was repeating “because he knew it was a trigger for Patient 4, and his grin when he said it was because he knew he was taunting that man”.

Ms Richardson said that the court doesn’t have a clip showing Mr Mellor turning down Patient 4’s music. They have seen Mr Mellor telling Olivia Davies about it “in quite specific detail and his reaction to it”. In his evidence, Ms Richardson told the jury, Mr Mellor had suggested he turned the music down because it was too loud for other patients, in the clip associated with Count 17, in his words he’d “sensationalised simple events to be in the centre of attention” and what he’d said in the clip was “all rubbish”.

Ms Richardson said that Mr Mellor’s language, such as he’d “cure this cunt” and “Superman diving the cunt” shines a light on what his real attitude was to patients.

Ms Richardson told the jury that similarly John Sanderson’s clips “reveal his true feelings” and were not simply as he suggested, simply the utterances of someone who wanted to appear firm or impress Ms Davies.

You will perhaps bear in mind Mr Sanderson was suspended from Whorlton Hall for using almost exactly the same language as he was seen using…  ‘decking the cunts’.

Ms Richardson told the jury that Patient 4 had few things in his life that brought him pleasure, his music, his sister and his posters.

You’ll decide whether John Sanderson was simply a bully goading Patient 4 into a fight, being arrogant and mocking towards Patient 4 and treating him in a cruel way, or as Mr Sanderson would say it was all an act of bravado… an example of laughing otherwise he’d cry, and when he answered Patient 7’s comment of “you’re evil” with “I can be” that was simply him being firm with Patient 7.

Ms Richardson mentioned Mr Fuller wearing Patient 4’s glasses when he was restrained on the ground and can do nothing, which she submits was Patient 4 being cruelly mocked by Mr Fuller, who enjoys, on his own admission, being the joker.

Ms Richardson told the court that the prosecution doesn’t suggest that any of the restraints that we saw in the clips carried out for legitimate reasons are unlawful, however, she told the jury, no part of anyone’s MAYBO training was to have a man lying prone on the floor while a staff member shouts 1-2-3-MAYBO and then gets on a chair above that patient’s head. She said that the defendant had suggested that when Patient 5 exclaimed displeasure it was dissatisfaction with the football results, and that the jury will no doubt “make of that what you will”.

The prosecution submit here is a clear example in which a patient could be ill-treated for the member of staff’s own enjoyment.

She told the jury that Darren Lawton wasn’t present at the beginning of the incident, but he “certainly joined in”, telling Patient 5 that we don’t do prone, dropping his knee and saying booof, something that is something that simply popped into his head, and it was like a wrestling move he’d do with his own children.

The prosecution submit this is deliberately taunting someone no way their intellectual equal.

She reminded the court that the fact that Patient 5 doesn’t decline to participate or appear distressed, despite what the prosecution submit about him expressing in his response, doesn’t matter as it is not needed for the charge. Ms Richardson told the jury that this was showing off “for esteem and status at the expense of the patient on the floor”.

Moving onto Patient 6, Ms Richardson told the jury that he was a man who at one time was so volatile as to cut his own forehead open by banging it on the corner of windows. She said that he was a large man and not someone to taunt or torment “yet we see Ryan Fuller repeatedly winding him up, within and out the Garden Room”.

Ms Richardson told the jury that Mr Knox would invariably eloquently argue that this is not evidence against Mr Fuller, and he is right, it doesn’t matter what any of us think.

Although the differences between Darren Lawton’s defence statement and what he said in evidence, might assist you with his credibility as a witness.

Ms Richardson told the jury that the prosecution submit that Patient 6 becomes agitated, evidenced in the Garden Room where he unzips his jacket. She told them it was recognised he would shout profanities when he’s anxious.

What started as Darren Lawton and Patient 6 sitting on the settee together and Patient 6 being calm, escalated to a string of profanities from Patient 6, when Mr Fuller goads him, knowing Patient 6 didn’t like him.

Following that exchange in the clip, you might have been forgiven for thinking you’d strayed into a kindergarten, albeit a very profane one …

Mr Fuller simply agitated him all the more.

Ms Richardson told the jury that once outside in the snow, despite Patient 6 being agitated, “Mr Fuller did nothing to tone down his behaviour”. She said that “he didn’t say don’t be silly, or stop it, or anything like that, he replied in kind, the pair of them making the same gesture”. Ms Richardson said that the gesture Patient 6 made was unmistakeable, especially when accompanied by Patient 6 saying wanker, wanker, wanker.

Why is it that Darren Lawton and Ryan Fuller continue with that gesture, saying what’s this?

Ms Richardson asked why it was that once Mr Fuller returned inside he continued “to behave like a child, shouting through the window repeatedly” winding up Patient 6, so much so that the prosecution submit Darren Lawton tells Ryan Fuller to stop shouting through the window and Mr Fuller shuts it. Ms Richardson said that it was a matter for the jury what they make of Darren Lawton’s evidence that it was in fact Patient 6 he was saying that to.

For Ryan Fuller it seems winding up Patient 6 was somewhat of a sport, and something he enjoyed.

Ms Richardson then moved onto Patient 7, telling the jury that Sabah Mahmood had said that Patient 7 liked her to be on her own level, which was not predicated only on the basis that she swore. Ms Richardson said it was clear that Ms Mahmood “began with doing her best to calm Patient 7 down and ascertain why she was upset”.

What started as entirely reasonable behaviour escalated into Sabah Mahmood becoming exasperated with her, losing her temper … no doubt still exasperated, deliberately making a remark about Patient 7’s family.

Ms Richardson said that whether or not Ms Mahmood and Patient 7 had had a conversation about it before, the prosecution submit on that day it was a deliberate act of ill-treatment.

Ms Richardson concluded by saying, that it is said by defendants throughout “why on earth would we want to antagonise these people” and that “effectively no-one wants a restraint to happen”.

These patients were completely at the mercy of those caring for them … those patient’s couldn’t walk out the doors of Whorlton Hall and leave behind what was happening to them.

They were sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and what was done to them, was being done in their homes, that was what Whorlton Hall was to them.

Ms Richardson said that the prosecution does not suggest that the defendants were doing bad things to these patients all the time, and no doubt there were many times when they were perfectly reasonable. She said it has been suggested that there are so many clips of Ryan Fuller because he so often worked with Olivia Davies, but the jury know no-one had any control over who they worked with, colleagues or patients.

Ms Richardson ended by saying that of course the clips don’t show the complete picture, they are snapshots.

It is for you to decide whether Olivia Davies was unfairly flirting with them, and enticed out of male defendants things they wouldn’t have said otherwise.

It is for you to decide whether any of these defendants are simply doing their best in a difficult situation.

The prosecution say this, consider the clips in detail and what the defendant’s say about their actions.

We invite you to conclude these are not accidental acts, instances of letting off steam or legitimate care practices.

These were deliberate acts of ill-treatment of which the defendants are guilty. Thank you.

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