Whorlton Hall Prosecution – Niall Mellor – Closing speech

The final closing speech yesterday, Monday 24 April, was Mr Robin Patton for the sixth defendant Niall Mellor. Mr Patton opened by saying he’d try to avoid repetition and he’d been editing lots of things out of his speech so that the jury don’t hear it for the fourth or fifth time. He told the jury he had five headings to give them some hope and idea of where he’d go: emotion versus fact finding; the patients; background to the investigation and the investigation itself; the voice of the patient; Niall Mellor and the charges against him.

One of things you may have heard or seen on the news from time to time, when there’s a difficult case in the press, is how the judge or prosecution have warned the jury not to let emotion carry them away.

That is commonly to say the theatre is the place for emotion, imagination and entertainment, not the court room.

Mr Patton told the jury their role requires them to be dispassionate and rigorous with the evidence. He told them that criminal trials have their own drama and “we don’t need more of it”. He said that the use of emotive language “is not appropriate for any quarter and is not helpful”.

It doesn’t assist you to do your job.

Your job is to decide the facts of the case on the evidence before you in court.

Much more difficult when deal with emotional or sensitive issues, such as we have here.

Mr Patton told the jury that they should be warned not to let emotions guide them “but to apply the law impartially and objectively to the facts” they find.

Emotions can cloud your judgement and interfere with your ability to evaluate credibility and reliability of witnesses, evidences and other sources of information.

Can bias you towards one party or another.

Mr Patton told the jury that if we form a view that we don’t like someone our capacity to reason out whether something is true or not is marred by the dislike we’re reached. As an example he said the jury might feel sympathy for a victim or anger towards a defendant and then disregard any inconsistencies.

You might think what a cool job Olivia has got, how dare they criticise her … she’s only doing right, and then not scrutinise her behaviour in any way you ought to as fact finders.

Goes for all prosecution witnesses, all defence witnesses, have to watch yourself, you’re not letting emotion or dislike get in the way of anything else.

You’ll be warned I dare say not to let emotions guide you. Follow the directions of law his Honour gives you, and apply them to the facts you find.

Mr Patton encouraged the jury to use reason and logic, to weigh evidence carefully and critically. He told them by doing that there was more chance they could fulfil their duty and ensure a fair trial for these defendants.

Mr Patton then told the jury he was moving onto his second heading already, patients.

This is a difficult one this. We keep hearing people, counsel and witnesses referring to Patient 1, Patient 4 and all the others as service users.

Its corporate speak isn’t it.

These are human beings.

Everybody has fallen into this habit of depersonalising these human beings by calling them service users.

Each of them is someone’s son or daughter or is a sibling.

Nature has so fashioned these folk that some of them have learning disabilities, or they’re on the autistic spectrum.

Each of them has been deprived of their liberty by the options of two psychiatrists who’ve evaluated them.

Each of them have been evaluated as posing a significant risk to either themselves, harming themselves or harming other people.

Those are the facts in this case.

Mr Patton told the jury that the patients at Whorlton Hall reside in accommodation that has been “designed with some care” and evaluated with care to ensure patients reside somewhere the risk of harm to themselves, or others, is minimised.

There is no doubt that in our country self-harming in homes of this sort, and worse, is a constant problem and patients need to be watched.

As you know some of these patients, the way in which its described is as ‘eyes-on’ all the time.

Although you haven’t heard from doctors, each of these have been assessed as posing such a danger to themselves that they had to be watched constantly.

That can’t be pleasant for them. Can you imagine what it must be like to be in a room all day with two people either in the room with you or just outside the door watching you?

Mr Patton told the jury that this was to give comfort to clinicians or patients’ families that when they’re separated from them “someone is going to care for them”. Mr Patton told the jury that the ingenuity of man is such that the capacity to inflict self-harm is almost limitless, in what people will use to harm themselves “not just in an institution of this sort, but prisons and all over the place”.

Mr Patton told the jury that there was a body of knowledge acquired from situations in which people might harm themselves or others.

Like in a prison, making sure if they have a tin of drink, you manage to get all the tin back.

Making sure toothbrushes cannot be used as knives, that they’re not fashioned in something.

In homes like this can be trying to ensure they don’t make a ligature, but it’s constant this because it happens again and again and again, that people harm themselves.

Mr Patton told the jury that is why when you hear someone is in distress and under restraint, two staff members immediately run to their room and come away with disposable razors.

Is your thought instantly, I tell you what, there’s no way that person is going to shave tonight.

Do you think that’s the motivation? Olivia thought they’ve done that to spite the person, to harm them and punish them, when run up to their room and come away with razors and clock with a glass face.

That was her mindset, we know from video diaries and everything else, that was her motivation she said … that’s distorted thinking in my submission to you.

How could you possibly think, unless you wanted a story, that moving razor blades from a patient’s room was done to punish them? It doesn’t make any sense.

Mr Patton told the jury that the prosecution had opened their case by saying three things about patients, that they weren’t saints, that they must have tested the patience of staff, and that the screaming of Patient 1 would test your patience.

I suspect a more nuanced approach to this is likely to be anyone who thinks about this, won’t see it in such binary terms, is likely to think to themselves these people, these patients are in distress. They are unwell. It’s not a question of seeing them as good or bad, violent or passive, these people are unwell.

Mr Patton told the jury that each of the patients were sectioned against their will, in a privately run facility, “which has promised the NHS it will provide for the high or very high support needs for each patient”.

Mr Patton told the jury they can think there’s a shortage of such establishments and they can surely think that for two reasons, the first is that some patients are separated from their families and loved ones “by great distances” and the second, scarcity of beds “is such that Cygnet demand extraordinary high fees for looking after these patients. Very limited resource which the NHS can turn to, if that’s the right thing to do”.

Very limited resource available. We know Cygnet received £1million a year, £20k a week, for looking after a patient with the very high support needs he had.

Up to them how they spend money and promises they make.

Could of course have employed four fully qualified nurses to look after him during the day, could have paid each £1k a week, could have employed three other qualified nurses, and paid £1k a week to look after him at night … would leave a gross profit per week for Patient 6 of £13k a week.

Except they didn’t pay to have full time nurses at all did they and didn’t pay anyone £1k a week so far as we see.

They pay Support Workers what was then the national minimum wage of £8 something an hour.

There was enough to provide better care than the care we’ve seen here.

Mr Patton said that was the reason for introducing the facts, was not just to make a cheap political point about NHS money going to private firms “even if it’s true”.

Mr Patton said he was then moving to the background to the investigation and the investigation itself. He asked the jury to go back to 2018, which he said was quite a long time ago, pre-pandemic and there was “quite a lot happening in the world at Whorlton Hall and this community in 2018”.

Mr Patton told the jury that nationally there was political turmoil, we were winging our way towards a general election. He said the last thing the BBC would want to be involved in was a “political programme suggesting private healthcare was leeching on the NHS”. Mr Patton said that local firm Danshell were about to be taken over by an American Healthcare firm.

Like all firms that buy firms for profit, maximising profit is what they’re all about.

If you get in £20k a week to look after patients you’ve got a lot of money to play with to give adequate care.

What do they do? They go right to the bottom in terms of least qualified person to look after this person to maximise their profits.

Mr Patton told the jury at the same time as this was happening, his client, Niall Mellor had witnessed and reported to Peter Bennett, and when nothing was done reported to the CQC, that X and Y had become involved with “what you might think is the most serious thing you’ve heard in this case”, putting a fist into the head of Patient 6 “into his wound to hold him down, as the fifth person in a MAYBO technique”.

It’s not snitching and tell tailing this. This is serious stuff, that’s cruel that is.

Not in the sense my learned friend would have it.

This is a wicked thing to do isn’t it? To hurt someone in that way, and it’s shameful it was covered up.

Mr Patton told the jury that the BBC haven’t said, but “all evidence points towards X and Y becoming their whistleblowers”. He said his reason for saying that was because the court know they had a whistleblower in 2018 providing information and he said if it wasn’t X and Y, they would have known about it and would have said to the BBC that these people did this.

Mr Patton told the jury when he asked Olivia Davies about this she said she’d heard the females name.

Obviously they didn’t trust her with all the information. She’s heard the name but she doesn’t know, or is not asked to clarify or get evidence to support this.

Must be more to it.

Joe Plomin tootles into the witness box and his response is I’m not going to discuss that, not commenting on those two people.

You might reasonably and fairly conclude X and Y were two disgruntled former employees with an axe of their own to grind, and that they were feeding information to the BBC and that’s what lies behind this investigation.

If I’m wrong about that, it doesn’t really matter, because we know they came along to investigate.

Mr Patton told the jury that there may be no smoke without fire and they may well conclude that they know who the whistleblowers are, and they don’t credit them as people with integrity.

Mr Patton said he wasn’t suggesting Joe Plomin was a one trick pony, he’d done this before at Winterbourne View. Mr Patton told the jury that they’d filmed people having mouthwash put into their eyes, being left out in the cold in the snow, and being physically beaten and abused, at Winterbourne View. He said that had let to an inquiry and a report.

Mr Patton told the jury that Mr Plomin has “got credibility of sending people in to do an undercover investigation”, adding that he’d obviously persuaded people higher up in the BBC that this is something he can do, to get someone in there.

This is an amazing opportunity that the CQC wouldn’t get, that the directors of the healthcare fund wouldn’t get, that the Americans wouldn’t get if they bothered to do any kind of due diligence.

She has access, Olivia, to the patients, we know that because she told us, she was mostly with the females and sat across from them for six hours at a time.

She has the opportunity to speak to them, find out what they’ve got to say, walk around that home and film, for example, how the senior staff, I don’t include Ms McGhee in that, management effectively, how they operate, what kind of scrutiny there is.

Mr Patton told the jury what else Ms Davies could have focused upon, and told them that they have to ask themselves what she was there for, and what was she looking for.

What do we get? We get the staff swearing behind patients’ backs and saying silly puerile things about them.

We get the situation where some of the staff it’s said have teased some of the patients.

Mr Patton told the jury that DC Simms and another officer had viewed the footage, reviewed it and he asks the jury what does it tell them.

There was spitting, kicking, hitting and biting, but not of the patients, it was the other way around.

Tells you people were shouting at the staff, screaming at them. Forgive me for using the language, calling them cunts, bastards, lying bastards, fucking lying bastards, and not once did they respond in a similar way, any of the staff.

Did they punch back? Spit back? Kick? Not once did they bite them or do any of those things such as you might have seen at Winterbourne View.

Mr Patton told the jury what that told them was these are “people with disregulated mental function” and when they were behaving like that they were not entirely in control. Mr Patton told the jury that the staff don’t respond in the same way, and that the most the Crown will allege against them is that the staff go into a room, having had all of those things happen and “say things about them”.

Mr Patton then suggested to the jury if you went into a large department store and went to customer service and kicked off in a less than friendly way, he didn’t think the staff member would go out the back and say they didn’t think you were having a good day, that they might use other language.

In the face of that they don’t kick, they don’t bite, they don’t respond.

Mr Patton told the jury that staff knew how patients would behave when disregulated, and that it showed that staff didn’t respond with violence towards them, “this isn’t something to evoke some fisty cuffs at all”. Mr Patton told the jury that DC Simms had reviewed all the footage and no-one was suggesting restraints used were improper or unlawful.

Mr Patton then said that Olivia was questioned about multidisciplinary team meetings and he hoped DC Simms wasn’t embarrassed because in the first interview with his client they’d had no footage at all, the next interview was over a year later, and he refers to an MDT meeting and the officer asked what one of those was. Mr Patton told the jury there is a plan in their bundle that tells you there’s an MDT room on it, yet DC Simms “doesn’t know what an MDT meeting is”.

Mr Patton told the jury that an MDT meeting, we’d heard, was an opportunity for the psychiatrist, psychologist, occupational therapist, nurses, dietician if necessary, to “all consider each patient, say where are we, where have we been and where are we going”. He said that the prosecution were prepared to admit there were MDT meetings in early 2018 and after 2019, but there was no admission, he said that they took place during the period on the indictment “you can make that conclusion yourself”.

Mr Patton told the jury that Olivia Davies was “aligned to patients” and that she’d said patients would not be able to communicate in MDT meetings, wouldn’t be able to say what had happened to them or articulate what their case was.

She said they’re not able to, that’s not in fact correct is it?

As you know Patient 7 set out a list of her request to talk about things, to talk about somebody she sat down with, a request to be at meetings.

Mr Patton told the jury that Patient 7 was someone who went to the cinema, chatted with people.

We know Olivia spent 6 hours at a time with Patient 7, and others like her, and nothing about what Patient 7’s story is at all. Nothing from the MDT meetings, because police constraints on this investigation is that they investigate BBC allegations, and doesn’t go wider.

Mr Patton told the jury that the police had not investigated the X and Y violence or cover up.

Olivia said to you ‘you don’t need training to be nice, do you?’

You don’t need training either to sit down with patient to say how are you, what sort of week are you having?

Or to say how long you been here? When are you hoping to get out? You got any family?

These aren’t difficult questions but there’s no evidence there’s any interest in the patients themselves, the interest I regret to say was in the story, rather than what happens to patients and their lives.

Makes great telly, people win awards. Is careerism, nothing to do with patients in there, with absolutely no choice.

Mr Patton told the jury that courts allow the use of intermediaries “if someone has communication difficulties, or they’re scared or have a verbal deficit” and he suggested intermediaries could have been used to help patients “tell their story, as it were”. He told the jury about a 2006 case, about the industry that has grown up around intermediaries, and that before you can have an intermediary an expert has to assess the witness.

Notice the low ball slung in the other day, my learned friend said these witnesses couldn’t give evidence.

How on earth do they know that? Where did that come from?

Have they had a psychiatrist tell them they couldn’t? Have they had a psychiatrist, such as Dr Perini, for some reason Mr Knox keeps calling him Dr Peroni which I think is a different interest.

In fact the officer in charge of the case didn’t know who the psychiatrist was until he was told in the witness box.

Mr Patton said no-one had asked Dr Perini how he dealt with Patient 1, given “she didn’t favour working with males”. He told the jury that no-one has asked them, not Olivia, not the police and not the prosecution.

Mr Patton told the jury that “in a normal criminal case where there is a victim, the victim has a voice”. He said that we don’t have witnesses here, we don’t have Patient 1 or Patient 7 “none of them to give evidence to you”.

Mr Patton told the jury that the most we’ve got is a statement from Dr Tom Jackson that was read to them. Mr Patton told the jury that Dr Jackson “has got quite a lot of expertise in this”, that he was shown the videos.

He has, this particular doctor, seen these videos, not offered an opinion to you saying this is cruel or inexcusable.

And they haven’t even bothered to go to Dr Perini, haven’t bothered to go to the psychologist, we’ve heard nothing from anyone who runs this home to say what in fact has been going on there.

Not a peep.

You’re being given the responsibility that others should have taken on.

Mr Patton told the jury there had been a “great deal of preparation” in the lead up to this trial taking place. He said in the middle of his evidence DC Simms didn’t know who the doctors were.

We know Olivia was in that home for hundreds of hours, isn’t a single piece of evidence put forward to show Olivia Davies spoke to them, this is what they had to say.

You don’t need to be detective or advocate to say to Patient 4 or Patient 1 how are you? How’s it going? Were you alright yesterday?

Nothing, which must make you wonder what the purpose was of the trip in there.

Mr Patton told the jury that he was moving onto his final subject.

Ill-treatment here alleged against Niall Mellor is he has more than once lowered the volume of the hifi of a patient.

Mr Patton told the jury they’d heard an example of how loud Patient 4’s music was, “music belting out, in a home where some people have sensitivity to noise and others loved it”. Mr Patton told the jury we knew Patient 4 had headphones, and we “also know he had a hifi not always well controlled”.

Mr Patton told the jury members that in another video they see night staff coming in and Niall Mellor is saying to Patient 4 “do you want to put your pyjamas on”.

In a couple of hours will be millions of people around the country saying to small beings, its time to go to bed, time to put your jim jams on … saying come on is time to get dressed for bed, big day tomorrow or whatever … is it always met with can’t wait to get their pyjamas on and go to bed?… really not enjoying watching whatever is on the tele or doing whatever it is they’re doing, so when you say again and they don’t want to hear it, it’s cruel is it?

It’s abusive? Really? To say to somebody it’s time to put your pyjamas on or your night attire.

Has someone taken over the asylum ladies and gentlemen of the jury?

Are we really saying this is criminal conduct? Saying to somebody its time to put your pyjamas on? That that is ill-treatment?

Mr Patton asked the jury if that was what any of them thought, if someone said to a child or someone they were in locus parentis too, a bit like a carer, come on time to put your pyjamas on, or if someone in another room is playing music and they suggest to turn it down, to do so is cruel and abusive?

Some of us were brought up to believe parents who did that were exhibiting good parenting skills, to make children considerate of others or comply with usual bedtime or that sort.

You’re invited in a criminal court to criminalise someone, not for saying those silly things he did say which he should be embarrassed about and obviously he is, that’s not a criminal offence.

His employer would probably say to you you’re not suited to this job … probably not worth instant dismissal, maybe formal warning, but here the prosecution say its criminal conduct, saying to someone it’s time to put your pyjamas on, the world is going mad if that’s true ladies and gentlemen of the jury, but that’s up to you, you are the ones who set the standard.

If you think that amounts to ill-treatment you’ll reflect that in your verdict.

If you think that amounts to taunting somebody, you’ll reflect that in your verdict.

Would be surprising if we distorted the meaning of ill-treatment to include that.

Mr Patton told the jury that definitions of ill-treatment are utterly bizarre if they include taking safety razors away from someone who might harm themselves and categorising that as ill-treatment. He told the jury it was nonsense.

Teaching someone to flip the bird, or speaking French to someone.

The BBC having set the agenda and given it to the police.

Someone has to say to them, is only you who can do it. Hang on a second since when has speaking French been a criminal offence, or flipping the bird, or telling them to put their pyjamas on.

It is up to you. You are the only protection these defendants have from the madness of this prosecution.

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