The last address the jury heard on Friday (21 April) was from Mr Andrew Rutter for Peter Bennett. He referenced Ms Richardson’s opening to her closing speech where she said that the jury may be sick of hearing her voice.
I’m at the other end of that particular scale, you’ve heard very little from me, it may be what I say this afternoon is the most you’ve heard of my voice in the the many weeks we’re here. Simple reason, with Mr Bennett there is very little with which I have to deal.
He told the jury, that he’d deal first in general terms with a proposition.
Anyone who acts in the best interests of someone for who they care, can not be described as cruel, cannot be abusive, and cannot ill-treat.
He referred to the analogy of a parent who gives a child foul tasting medicine, when it was the last thing on earth the child would want to consume, they do so in the best interests of the child. He told the jury that the parent is not cruel, they are not abusive, ill-treating, even though it is the last thing the child will want to happen.
The end justifies the means. The interests of the child, or the person for whom they care, is paramount. That, I submit to you, is what Peter Bennett has done, so fas as Patient 1 is concerned.
Mr Rutter told the jury that they’d all heard how she behaved when she was distressed and what was in her best interests, and that it was “in her best interests to be calm”. He told the court that she had to stop being distressed because “in such a state she self harms, her distress worsens and she’s violent to others”, he stated that it was in Patient 1’s best interests that she did not do any of those things.
Mr Rutter told the jury that was all that Mr Bennett set out to achieve.
He told them that as a care worker, Mr Bennett had a duty of care towards Patient 1 “but also to those in her vicinity and that was a duty, I submit to you, he fulfilled”.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett faces three counts, Count 1, 2 and 13. He reminded them that Counts 1 and 2 are from 6 January 2019 and that if they look at Divider 7 they can see what was going on. He told the court that Patient 1 was “very distressed, there was loud screaming, she was cared for by two females”, he said that the females requested earplugs “such was the decibel levels from Patient 1’s screaming” and they were asked if they wanted a bite jacket, because Patient 1 was “so out of control”.
What was in everyone’s interests, in particular Patient 1, was that she calmed.
He asked the jury what caused Patient 1 to be “out of control on 6 January 2019? Why was she screaming as loudly as she was? Anything apart from her acute autism and her very difficult mental health?” He told the jury that there was “not a shred of evidence beyond her mental state, nothing whatsoever”. He questioned whether it was the threat of men, saying men were not there. He questioned whether it was balloons, before telling the court that they did not come into play at all.
We simply do not know why she would explode. Why would she become so distressed and be a threat to herself and to others? There is simply no evidence. So one cannot say the words or actions of anyone caused her to be in the state of distress that she undoubtedly was.
Mr Rutter told the jury that there were two female care workers there unable to cope, and asked them what one of them felt was the right strategy to deploy, before taking them to the transcripts bundle, Divider 7, page 3.
You can see the scene is set, with her screaming, out of control. What does Milly O’Neill say to Patient 1? There it is, in black and white, “if you keep shouting Matthew and Peter will come back”. That’s the very first suggestion in evidence in this case about men. I say to you bear in mind she’s out of control being cared for by two women.
Mr Rutter told the jury that “the fact men may be mentioned has no bearing on that, because she’s out of control and as I say, we’ll never know why”. He said that it hadn’t been suggested the female carer was being cruel, abusive or ill-treating Patient 1 in saying that to her.
No, no suggestion at all. The logical reason for that is it must have been an appropriate strategy to try and get her to be calm. In other words, she said it in Patient 1’s best interests.
Had she not, had she been seeking to raise Patient 1’s distress, cause it, or anything of the sort we’d have heard about it. We haven’t, and I submit to you it was a sensible thing to do because one couldn’t have that scene continuing, is in no one’s interest and certainly not in the interest of Patient 1.
Mr Rutter asked the jury to put themselves in Mr Bennett’s shoes.
Whilst this is all going on. He’s just returned to work having had a breakdown. His duties were altered so that he was downstairs in the office, drinking coffee, playing on his computer.
Now he’s a responder. When the alarm goes, he’s obliged to go, he has no choice. He’s at the other end of the building on a different floor and he hears the screaming.
I dare say none of us will ever forget the sound of the screaming, probably the loudest thing any of us have ever heard. The two women can’t control her so what do they do? They press the alarm, and as was his duty he went.
Just imagine the scene that greeted him, a very distressed Patient 1 and two women carers who simply could not cope.
Would he, again imagine you’re in his shoes, want the screaming to continue? No
Would he want the screaming to escalate? No
Would he want the screaming to stop? Obviously.
So he could go back downstairs, have his cup of coffee and be on his computer.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett had three options in order to achieve that end.
Words, restraint or drugs.
Mr Bennett discounted the last two, Mr Rutter told the jury. He said that drugs “may have been the easiest option of all”, but Mr Bennett did not choose that, or restraint. Mr Rutter said that Mr Bennett said if he’d called the nurse and told them that Patient 1 was so distressed that she needs drugs, PRN:
He told you she would be zombified, she’d be in her bed for the day.
She’d be calm and silent, what a relief that would be for Mr Bennett and the staff. No more screaming and relative peace and quiet.
Mr Rutter said that one of the female staff members said that Patient 1 should have PRN:
In other words, let’s call the nurse, drug her so she’s calm, silent and zombified.
Now Peter Bennett did not take that option.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett had told them he was against restraint for fear it would cause Patient 1 an injury, that he was against drugs “because she’d be unable to address her need to try and control her own emotions, and she would be unable to participate in the activities she enjoyed”.
So, in their best interests? Yes, knock her out, she’s off our hands, peace and quiet.
But he didn’t do that, because it wasn’t in her best interests and it was her best interests he had at the forefront of his mind.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett had spoken to Patient 1 in a calm voice, reminded her she could have white noise, asked if she’d like her headphones, whether she’d like the light off, asked if there was anything he could do for her. Mr Rutter told the jury if they looked at how this concluded, page 14 behind Divider 7, Patient 1 says “sorry for all that nonsense” and Mr Bennett says “good, well done”.
Mr Rutter told the jury members that Mr Bennett was “acting in accordance with the letter of the careplan” and that it ended with the two of them speaking amicably ‘he in a calm voice, but more importantly she in a calm voice. She’d been calmed and what does he do? He leaves”.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett acted very much in Patient 1’s best interests.
Is he doing that to calm her down or, as alleged against him, to increase the intensity of her screaming? Surely it’s the former, nobody in his position would want that to continue .
In her interests, that’s what he did throughout. Simply no evidence that what he was doing would trigger her distress or escalate it. You see end of page 15 he’d achieved his goal, she was calm and when she was calm he left.
Mr Rutter told the court that in Patient 1’s careplan it said that she would accept men on occasions for short periods of time. “You know the dynamics and how women only was not possible” and he told the jury he’d just given them an example of how Patient 1 behaved when cared for by two women.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mrs Bennett, the defendant’s wife, had given unchallenged evidence on this subject and told them that Patient 1 liked some men and disliked others, that there was no blanket refusal of men or hatred of men in general. He said that a graphic illustration of that was a drawing Patient 1 had made of herself getting married to a male carer, saying that it wasn’t a taboo subject.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Karen McGhee’s evidence had echoed that and he told them that the “subject itself in blanket terms could not have been a trigger at all”.
Simply a desire to calm her down, stop her from screaming cannot be cruel, cannot be abusive because it was very much in her best interests.
I’ll grasp the nettle with the man button. He said he did say there’s a button with a stick figure of a man on it, press it if you want anything.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett discussed it later with Olivia Davies
He said later to Olivia Davies, he had to do something to exercise some control over the situation. He certainly did. What he did was take her out of danger, out of distress, back to calm without resorting to more severe methods, mainly physical restraint and drugs.
Mr Rutter said the next subject he’d deal with is balloons.
He asked the jury if mentioning balloons was cruel, abusive or would it ill-treat? He told the jury that they had in their bundles Patient 1’s PBS Plan in which she said she’d welcome more objects she could fiddle with, manipulate or create. Mr Rutter said that Olivia Davies had told the court about the wings and balloons that Patient 1 had.
She couldn’t have anything dangerous. She had balloons. Of course she could fiddle with them, manipulate them and they wouldn’t cause her any injury.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mrs Bennett had given evidence that when Patient 1 first arrived she’d had an adverse reaction to her belongings because of an allergy to latex. He told the jury that Patient 1 had brought balloons with her, and that her mother had brought them in for her and given her a pump she could use to inflate them.
We know Patient 1 wanted to make a tutu out of balloons, there’s no suggestion at all that her mother is cruel, that Patient 1 was being cruel to herself by having balloons in her property, or on day trips going to the craft shop in Barnard Castle and buying them.
Mr Rutter told the jury that there was no suggestion Patient 1 was a masochist.
He told the jury that Olivia Davies wore two hats, one as an intrepid reporter and one as a care worker to Patient 1. He said that she had read her careplans and with her care worker hat on saw “no reason whatsoever to remove them [balloons] from Patient 1’s room”.
Mr Rutter told the jury that there was nothing in Patient 1’s careplan about balloons.
Not a shred of evidence I suggest to you, from anybody, to state balloons on their own would either cause or increase distress.
Mr Rutter said that Patient 1’s mother in her statement had told the court that Patient 1 was frightened of balloons popping or bursting “that was the fear”.
That makes sense, someone with her difficulties would be hyper-sensitive to noise, so it’s the popping and bursting that causes the distress, not the fact there were balloons there on their own.
Therefore that’s not abusive, that’s not cruel to mention balloons or pick one up, already in her room placed by somebody else. She and her mother were the ones responsible for those being there as they were.
Mr Rutter told the jury that the final count against Mr Bennett is Count 13 against Patient 2.
He speaks a few words of French, at one point he gets up from his seat as she’s coming towards him.
Is speaking a few words of French cruel? Is it ill-treating Patient 2?
You may ask yourselves have we heard any evidence from anybody that speaking French would cause distress?
The answer is a resounding no.
There’s no evidence at all that would cause her distress in the slightest, nothing.
Mr Rutter asked the jury if there is anything wrong with a man “who has been stabbed by her before, raising slightly from his seat when she runs towards him?”. He told the jury that we know from other witnesses about Patient 2’s violence, and at one stage she’d knocked someone down the stairs.
Mr Rutter then said that there can’t be any suggestion Patient 2 was scared by what Mr Bennett did, or frightened of him, because she returned almost immediately “and took hold of his hands” and he told her that her care worker was on a break and would return soon.
No histrionics, nothing. So to suggest speaking French with no evidence and to raise your backside form a chair for half a second is cruel and abusive is I’m afraid simply ludicrous.
Mr Rutter then moved to his conclusion, stating that these were the three counts Mr Bennett faces. He told the jury that they’d heard him give evidence, and he, as all the people in the dock, were of very good character.
A 53 year old man who has dedicated 10 years of his life to caring for vulnerable people.
Mr Rutter told the jury they’d seen many clips of the patients and the job that Mr Bennett was doing.
What does he get as thanks? Put on trial for supposedly ill-treating two people for whom he cared.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett’s job had “such a bearing on him” that “he said he had a breakdown in 2018 and took time off, sought treatment, and once he was fit, not to return to full duties, but to return to Whorlton Hall, he did so”.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett was not someone who condones the ill-treatment of people in care. That there was no wall of silence from him, and when Mr Mellor had come to him concerned about the manner in which other staff had restrained someone, he’d acted upon it.
He reported it, liaised with head office and told them what he had been told.
Not a question of we’re all in this together, when he saw it he spoke out and did something about it.
That I submit to you speaks volumes to his attitude to the way people in that institution should be cared for.
Mr Rutter told the jury that Mr Bennett had given evidence to them, and what he said “was no different to what he said to the police, consistent throughout”
Consistency, I submit, is the hallmark of truth, and that’s what you’ve got from him.
Unless you can say when you retire, we collectively and individually were of the view Peter Bennett lied to us, and lied to the police, then the only verdict is not guilty.
Mr Rutter finished by telling the jury that Mr Bennett’s wife had given evidence and Ms Richardson didn’t challenge her, that she’d explored her evidence “but didn’t say what she was saying was wrong or inaccurate”. He told the jury Mrs Bennett had given evidence on two very important subjects, Patient 1’s preference for women, which he said was “not as cut and dried as the prosecution would like it to be”, and that she also gave evidence about the time Patient 1 moved to Whorlton Hall with balloons in her possession.
She has told you the truth and that will go a long way in this case.
Mr Rutter told the jury that the combination of Mr Bennett’s evidence and Mrs Bennett’s unchallenged evidence, when taken together, destroyed what is left of the prosecution case.
When you analyse the case against him and for him, you I dare say, will come to the conclusion that he deserves three verdicts of not guilty. Thank you very much.
At that stage the jury were sent out for an afternoon break, on their return HHJ Smith explained that we’d start again on Monday. He asked the jury to keep an open mind, remember his instructions and put the case out of their mind and come back refreshed on Monday.