Whorlton Hall Prosecution – Sarah Banner – Closing speech

The third closing speech we heard was from Mr Jonathan Walker on behalf of Sarah Banner. Mr Walker started by telling the jury that it doesn’t often happen, but that he’d got the distinct heebie jeebies and flashbacks when Ms Richardson addressed the court on Friday, he then expanded on her reference to George Orwell’s book 1984.

Mr Walker said you can see with football managers that they cover their mouths when speaking on the side of the pitch, that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a halitosis issue, but it’s because somewhere in a bunker someone would be watching what they are saying, watching what others are saying, writing it down and relaying it back to where it actually happened.

George Orwell would have loved that concept, much as he’d have loved the concept of Joe Plomin and Olivia Davies trawling hour after hour after hour of footage, and chipping in she’s smirking, she’s laughing.

Mr Walker told the jury that the Crown say they’re not criminalising humour, but then suggested when they have a second to goto the particulars of Count 10 to see how much the crown are not criminalising humour.

Mr Walker told the jury that in Orwell’s 1984 the thought police employed undercover agents posing as normal citizens, “they walk amongst us … reporting any individuals with subversive tendencies”. Mr Walker said there were echoes of the questions in the Ministry of Love.

You knew what you were saying was wrong didn’t you? Was that appropriate? What would management think?

What would management think?

I’d imagine all of you spent at least a moment of this case [wondering] at what point at which that door is going to open and someone from management is going to walk in and say that’s not how we talk, that’s not how we operate, we discourage that, we told them that wasn’t wise.

Mr Walker told the jury that Olivia Davies warned us.

George Orwell would have shown a wry smile at discussions between Joe Plomin and Olivia Davies as they sexed up this dossier … scrutinising hour after hour to criminalise the mundane and totally meaningless chat between those bored defendants.

Orwell would have loved the idea that someone paid by you and I, who commits a crime, Count 19, and instead of finding themselves there [points at the dock], they find themselves receiving plaudits for a Panorama programme done well.

The flipside, if its viewed, tweaked or misinterpreted in any way, means she’s sitting there.

Not drinking amongst your friends, enjoying and being glad handed and congratulated for exposing the careless and meaningless chat amongst bored defendants.

Mr Walker took the jury to a document in the supplementary bundle he’d given them, asking them when they have a second to please reflect on what it said about Sarah Banner, in the months before this investigation took place.

Sarah Banner was observed to act very confidently and in a calm manner, throughout this stressful experience in December 2017, when she was just in the door a few months.

November 2018 … positive attitude, takes her role and responsibilities very seriously… is reliable, helpful and supportive person with service users and staff… will reflect on situations been challenging and ask for support to learn from these.

Mr Walker said that the prosecution say you can ignore that, because Olivia and Joe Plomin’s “sexed up dossier is so much more compelling”.

They say when she said to Patient 1 “go on hit yourself, right carry on doing that, that’s fine” they say you can ignore all other plausible, rational, sensible reasons why that might be used.

Mr Walker told the jury that he’d come on to Olivia Davies and Sabah Mahmood deploying exactly that set of skills but he said that the prosecution say that can be ignored.

They say you can ignore that to such an extent to convict her.

Surprising don’t you agree?

Goes beyond that ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the use of non MAYBO and how Sarah Banner would refuse to repeat to Patient 1.

Look she’s smirking Joe Plomin said.

If there was ever a more brilliant example of thought crime, its Sarah Banner supposedly refusing to repeat to Patient 1 … they say demonstrates Sarah Banner’s attitude towards patients at Whorlton Hall.

Mr Walker told the jury that it would have been a count on the indictment had it not been for the fact that the prosecution weren’t calling anyone from management.

We’re becoming arguably more and more delicate as a people, but isn’t Sarah Banner’s open expressions about not repeating, a difference of opinion? Isn’t her voicing that, and she wasn’t alone, half the house, the Hall, didn’t repeat. Those senior to her, those junior to her, didn’t repeat. It demonstrates her attitude towards patients at the home.

It’s a reversal isn’t it. Isn’t it simply her voicing an opinion? She wasn’t alone, she wasn’t unique. She wasn’t at the vanguard of causing issues for patients.

Mr Walker told the jury that he was conscious it was entirely a one way process “where we stand up and address you”, telling them that every which way they listen during the case they could see examples of people saying that they repeated and it didn’t work.

Her mother’s carefully drafted statement to assist the court said Patient 1 would seek out issues to make the situation even worse.

[At this point I couldn’t hear Mr Walker, the sound fluctuated quite a bit today, I think it was because counsel were stood, facing the jury and addressing them and moving a little, so the microphones didn’t always pick them up – apologies].

Mr Walker told the jury that one of the techniques used by a number of these defendants was not repeating words to Patient 1, because it didn’t work in their experience.

Trying to be nimble, trying to find a path, they adapted and overcome, overcame. We know even repeating you weren’t guaranteed the situation would quell.

Mr Walker then said he was conscious the jury had spent weeks listening to evidence in this case and he’d take them for a quick look through the counts faced by Sarah Banner.

Count 19, I’ve said from the outset members of the jury you could add Olivia Davies’ name to this count, I don’t like to do that, but the reality is Count 19 requires you to be satisfied both elements set out in those particulars are present.

We submit right from the very off that the request Sarah Banner followed has to be cruel from the outset doesn’t it?

Before even considering Sarah Banner’s guilt, we submit you have to ask yourselves whether that request in relation to Patient 4’s room was cruel.

Because Sarah Banner can’t of her own volition import cruelty to it, can she?

She can’t follow what was later described by the officer in charge of the case as proportionate consequences, clearing the room, Sarah Banner can’t make it cruel of her own volition.

So, unless those initial requests by her co-accused are cruel, then surely, surely Sarah Banner’s activities can’t be cruel?

Mr Walker asked the jury was it a close call? Telling them that DC Simms had said in October 2020 it was “a proportionate consequence of Patient 4’s behaviour” to take belongings from his room.

A proportionate consequence.

Even if someone smiled, again we’re not criminalising humour … that does not import cruelty.

These are the type of incidents, only those sitting behind that screen can even understand what this is like.

Mr Walker told the jury that at the time of Count 19 “you know a number of facts about what was going on”. He said that Patient 4 was volatile and prone to raising “unfounded malicious allegations against members of staff” and that very day he’d said he would do that. He suggested if a member of staff had gone upstairs and taken his favourite teddy bear or his favourite football shirt or piece of clothing, and paraded it past him, the jury could legitimately say that was designed to punish or cause him distress.

Mr Walker told the jury that what was taken was small potentially projectile items and razors. He told them he submits that wasn’t designed to punish Patient 4 and that as the officer had said it was a proportionate response, that Sarah Banner was following a reasonable request of those senior to her and keeping with the Safe and Supportive Engagement Policy at Whorlton Hall, which included the removal of items causing distress or likely to be used for self harm.

Mr Walker then turned to Counts 10 and 9. Mr Walker said that the only way Count 10 makes any sense is if the Crown can prove, so that the jury are sure, that Sarah Banner genuinely wanted “in the middle of a maelstrom of dysregulation on the part of Patient 1”, for Patient 1 to hit herself.

It was, say the Crown a genuine attempt to get Patient 1 to hit herself.

Other than being utterly ridiculous, other than asking rhetorically why on earth would she want to do that? Does the phrase “right, carry on doing that, that’s fine, enjoy” … if you break it down and simply say Sarah Banner encouraged a patient to hit themselves, then you’d have some concerns… if that was even close to what happened on that day… you’d have concerns and legitimate concerns.

You’ve seen the footage, I’m not going to trouble you with it again.

Did you at any stage genuinely believe what Sarah Banner was attempting to do there was persuade someone, already in very real difficulties, from hitting themselves.

If the Crown called evidence Patient 1 always followed to the letter an instruction, you might be approaching the foothills of proving this case, but you don’t, what you have is someone in a testing environment saying … go on then, carry on doing that, that’s fine, enjoy.

It worked, it has been used before.

It wasn’t cruel.

No-one was suggesting Sabah Mahmood was being cruel when she used similar language.

Mr Walker told the jury no-one was suggesting Olivia Davies was cruel when she said to a patient, hit him hit him. Mr Walker then told the jury that “if the use of that sort of phrase was genuinely cruel and an example of ill-treatment” then the police ought to attend any supermarket or department store “when little Jonny is sitting on the floor of Asda’s frozen food, having a complete melt down” and his parents at the end of their tether say, come on then, we’re leaving.

Is that a genuine threat? Is it not diversion? Was it not exactly what the home was encouraging staff to do? Take someone in a maelstrom … distract them, knock them out of their orbit, and bring them back to earth.

Whether the calm words of Sarah Banner or Olivia Davies, Ms Davies gave us a phrase, don’t know whether from the BBC HR Department, she said part of training she had before she went into Whorlton Hall, she described it as calm opposite … what she’d said was hit him, hit him, oh no I had a question mark she said. So it’s ok.

It isn’t all about whataboutery, these are legitimate questions. These are aspects that have cropped up during the evidence you’ve seen.

So how is it Count 19 with Sarah Banner, Counts 9 and 10, but for Olivia Davies add some question marks and that’s a different interpretation, a different context?

[I then missed another chunk – apologies]

They walk amongst us members of the jury, the use of humour, distraction, redirection, diversion, it’s within the documentation members of the jury.

And it’s complete nonsense, it’s complete nonsense.

She’s forthright, she’s confident, she is probably not built for the diplomatic service, but she was good at this job. She was really good at this job. She was nimble on her feet, she was able to convey what she wanted to convey and she did it in a caring and gentle fashion.

Mr Walker said that he’d leave the jury with one point in closing.

I leave you this one point in closing, when Olivia Davies and whispering Joe Plomin made hundreds of hours of recording of her reminiscing about how hard she’d worked at Whorlton Hall, and there were hundreds of hours of recording, and notes and notes and notes. 38 days spent there, in such an environment, she was asked one really, really straight forward question:

How many times did you say the word cruel or cruelty during all that time?

Her response was so telling, so honest, unlike all the other polished work, “I didn’t know I hadn’t used that word”.

I didn’t know I hadn’t used that word. That’s what she said about those hundreds of hours of reporting what had happened in Whorlton Hall.

It’s a really subtle give away members of the jury, she wasn’t there to sugar coat any of this, not one bit of it. You see how they conveyed and conducted these interviews.

They weren’t there to make this scene look or be reflected in anything other than worst possible way, to maximise the plaudits. The one word she didn’t use throughout all that time, is the one word all those defendants face accusations of, of being cruel.

If they, and she, had worked through 38 days of unadulterated cruelty. If they had seen it, she would have said it.

She didn’t see it, and she didn’t say it, because it simply wasn’t there.

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