Whorlton Hall Prosecution – John Sanderson – Closing speech

The penultimate closing speech was given by Mr Shaun Dryden on behalf of John Sanderson. He opened by explaining that he was addressing them eighth of all because his client was the eighth defendant, and he’d try not to cover ground his learned friends had already covered and he apologised in advance if he did so.

As far as John Sanderson is concerned, you’re dealing with two counts on the indictment, Count 16 teasing Patient 4 about his medication, and also tasked with dealing with Count 22, same patient, Patient 4 where it’s alleged tampering with his belongings and a physical confrontation.

Now you know as far as John Sanderson is concerned, he was one of the younger members of staff working at Whorlton Hall.

When he became employed as a Support Worker way back on 4 June 2018, he was just 21 years old.

The defence submit that is a relevant factor, when you consider the charges against him.

Mr Dryden told the jury that they know a little about John Sanderson, that he’s a man of previous good character, has no convictions, cautions, warnings or reprimands “not a man who’s ever been involved with the criminal justice system, in 2018, or as we stand here today in 2023”. Mr Dryden told the jury that HHJ Smith would direct them on what they should make of that particular fact, in due course.

Prior to starting the job at Whorlton Hall, you know Mr Sanderson had in fact been unemployed, he appears to have had an apprenticeship which didn’t go well, and he wasn’t kept on.

Again you know Mr Sanderson when he joined Whorlton Hall as a Support Worker, had no relevant experience at all in the care sector. So, he hadn’t worked in what I might call a standard care home, he certainly hadn’t been exposed previously to the type of patients that were resident in Whorlton Hall.

You may have thought, bearing in mind the complex nature of those various patients, and the complex needs they had, you may have thought Whorlton Hall would be staffed with fully trained, fully renumerated, fully compensated mental health nurses.

But that wasn’t the case was it?

Mr Dryden told the jury that John Sanderson turned up to work for the first time at Whorlton Hall on 4 June 2018, with no experience “and realistically with very little training”. He told them that they’d heard about the three day MAYBO course and a little extra training he had, but that was it and none of the training, he told the jury, equipped John Sanderson to “deal with the type of patients resident in Whorlton Hall”.

Mr Dryden told the jury that John Sanderson was employed on a 40 hour a week contract and that it appears the evidence the court had heard from staff was that generally they worked a lot more hours than that.

He was effectively on minimum wage, paid around £7.84 an hour.

That was the position he was in.

Turns up young, inexperienced, with effectively no training.

The defence say he wasn’t really equipped throughout his whole course of employment in the Hall to do the job properly.

There doesn’t appear to have been any substantial on the job training. When he started there didn’t appear to be any particular training course or training modules he participated in.

In terms of the all important careplans, Mr Sanderson was told go to the office and read the large number of constantly changing lever arch files about each patient.

Mr Dryden told the jury that they know Mr Sanderson, along with other staff members, had no say over who they were allocated to work with. Mr Dryden told the jury when he started Mr Sanderson was assigned to work with Patients 3 and 6. Mr Dryden said he wasn’t criticising any of the patients in this case, and that they all had “certain conditions” that could result in violent behaviour.

Those two patients were described perhaps as the most physically violent in the institution.

The attitude of management seems to be, if Mr Sanderson can cope with these two when he first started, he can cope with anyone.

You might think he had a baptism of fire regarding those two patients when he first started. What can possibly go wrong? No real training, inexperienced, working with and observing Patient 6 and Patient 3. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it went wrong fairly quickly didn’t it. You know on 27 July 2018 Mr Sanderson was quite badly assaulted, by Patient 3.

He’d only been there seven weeks, you’ll recall Mr Sanderson describing that particular incident in July 2018 where effectively an agency staff member had run off because Patient 3 became agitated, leaving Mr Sanderson by himself and he was thereafter assaulted.

Mr Dryden told the jury that Mr Sanderson had volunteered to work the night shift “unwisely it turns out” and he was injured within seven weeks of starting work at Whorlton Hall. He told the jury that Mr Sanderson had sustained a fracture to his right wrist, and that no-one at Whorlton Hall could take him to hospital, so his co-defendant Karen McGhee who had just finished a 12 hour shift and returned home, came back to take him to hospital.

Mr Dryden told the jury that Mr Sanderson was off work for three months, after seven weeks of working there, that he was badly injured and required three months off work.

During course of that three month period, he’s not at the Hall, he’s not getting any experience of working with patients, not getting any further training, everything is in abeyance as far as he’s concerned.

During that three month period Patient 4 arrives. Initially Patient 4 is not there, when Mr Sanderson returns Patient 4 had then arrived as a resident.

Mr Sanderson comes back to the Hall on 31 October 2018.

He’s still got his wrist in plaster, so he’s still injured effectively but management place him on what is described as restrictive duties. That appears to mean things like for example tidying up in the grounds of Whorlton Hall, or asking patients to take their medication, it doesn’t involve and cant involve any physical interaction with the patients, certainly can’t involve any restraints as far as patients are concerned.

Mr Dryden tells the jury that they’ll recall Mr Sanderson’s evidence on Patient 4’s careplan, that he was taken to the office “and snippets of the careplan involving Patient 4 were read out to him by the two managers, Mr Robdrup and Mr Shield”.

They had the careplan and were simply pointing out, highlighting relevant, what they thought was relevant.

As far as he was concerned, that was the extent of his detailed knowledge of the careplan.

You know from the agreed facts that as far as Patient 4 is concerned, he appears to be very physically and verbally aggressive. Again, it’s not his fault, but as a fact, that’s how he behaved.

For example, we know were 65 recorded incidents of Patient 4 being physically or verbally aggressive during the period December 18 to February 19, the part where Mr Sanderson returned back to work.

Mr Dryden told the jury that they’d seen copies of the careplan relating to Patient 4, and he wouldn’t take them to it now, but he told them “is suggested in Patient 4’s careplan a firm approach is required”. He told them there was particular reference to Patient 4 becoming agitated if any reference is made to his diabetes.

Mr Sanderson is back on restricted duties and he gets assaulted again.

He’s assaulted for a second time on 7 December 2018, this time by a different patient, this time is Patient 5.

Mr Dryden told the jury they’d recall what Mr Sanderson had told them about that, that he was struck by a pool cue held by Patient 5, on his right wrist and he re-fractured the same injury. Mr Dryden told the jury that Mr Sanderson was off work again, until 11 January 2019.

Another five weeks off, caused due to injury, by virtue of the fact he’s been assaulted again.

Another five weeks not receiving any particular training, not having time with patients.

His career, such as it was, was completely in abeyance.

He returns 11 January 2019, still injured with his right wrist still in a support splint. Still on restricted duties.

By this time Olivia Davies has got a job at Whorlton Hall and she is going around with the hidden camera recoding copious amounts of footage.

It’s really that footage which forms the basis of the prosecution against Mr Sanderson.

Mr Dryden told the jury that when they’re considering the case against Mr Sanderson, they have to do so “through the prism through which lawyers call the burden of the standard of proof”. He told them that all that means is that the prosecution bring the case against Mr Sanderson, and they have to prove it.

They have to make you sure he’s guilty of ill-treatment and Mr Sanderson doesn’t have to do anything. He doesn’t have to prove anything and he certainly doesn’t have to prove he’s not guilty.

He doesn’t have to attend for interview, doesn’t have to speak to police when interviewed, doesn’t have to take to the witness box and undertake the ordeal of being cross examined by my learned friend, Ms Richardson.

He doesn’t have to do anything.

So what evidence does the Crown put before you to make you sure Mr Sanderson is guilty of ill-treatment?

Mr Dryden told the jury that the only evidence is the videos “there’s nothing else” and that was what the case against John Sanderson boiled down to. He asked the jury to look at the clips and look at what Mr Sanderson was doing.

What the defence ask you to do, in fairness to Mr Sanderson, is try to look at the context of those clips. Because it is an important, can be an important distinction once you look at context, not just what is shown in the footage.

You may not recall this members of the jury, many years ago there was an advert on TV, I can’t remember what was being advertised now. Was an elderly man walking down the street with a walking stick, obviously quite frail. What the camera showed was running behind the elderly man was a large, angry skinhead. The skinhead was shouting towards the elderly man, was gesticulating towards the man, it looked like the skinhead was going to mug or rob the elderly man. When the camera slightly later pulled back, it was the skinhead running towards the elderly man to push him out the way because something was falling out an upstairs building. In fact the skinhead was trying to assist the elderly man.

All the defence ask with regard the footage, is to pull the camera back a little bit. Try to find out exactly what was going on in the footage, bearing in mind the context of Mr Sanderson’s experience, and the context of what was going on at Whorlton Hall at the time.

You know Olivia Davies took hundreds of hours of footage, hundreds of hours of taping in 38 days she was there. All looked at, sifted both by the BBC Editor and the police.

Of those hundreds of hours footage, we have about six minutes worth that relate to two charges 16 and 22 involving Mr Sanderson.

Six minutes and 30 seconds is the accurate time, that’s the footage in total.

That’s it.

Mr Dryden told the jury where was no footage involving Mr Sanderson in any physical assaults, improper restraints or any of patients with their physical needs not being attended to. He told them that Mr Sanderson was in the dock, not for what he did, but for what he said.

The defence say that cannot amount to ill-treatment as far as the law is concerned, in respect of these counts.

Prosecution say they accept it is a tough job, accept patients were difficult, Ms Richardson in her closing speech seemed to suggest it may not have been a well-run institution, Whorlton Hall … certain aspects seem very poorly run, weak management structure, endemic problems with staffing.

You have to think what the reality was of working in that particular environment, day after day after day, long shift, after long shift.

Look at the footage you have seen, of Patient 1 screaming, we heard that for a number of minutes that was enough wasn’t it? Imagine that going on for hour after hour and you as a Support Worker had to try and deal with that.

Imagine a position where you’re going to work everyday and the reality is you’ll probably be assaulted.


That was the day to day reality of Mr Sanderson as a Support Worker and the other staff working at Whorlton Hall.

Mr Dryden asked the jury to imagine the stress of the “constant adrenaline surge of having to carry out a MAYBO restraint”, of having to monitor patients “to check they haven’t deviated from their baseline” because if they do that could lead to problems shortly after.

That’s going on every day, that’s going on every shift.

Mr Dryden told the jury that was the background and the context in which Mr Sanderson was working. He said he’d then turn briefly to the two counts that Mr Sanderson faced on the indictment.

Mr Dryden turned first to Count 16 and told the jury that the phrase was Mr Sanderson was teasing Patient 4 about his medication. He told them at that time Mr Sanderson was on restricted duties, and one of those involved him asking people to take their medication. He told the jury that it was never the case that Mr Sanderson would dispense medication, but he’d ask patients to goto the nurse’s station where the medication was dispensed.

Mr Dryden told the jury that Mr Sanderson had told them on that day the nurses in charge had asked him to request Patient 4 go take his medication. He told the jury that the prosecution hadn’t produced any evidence to say that was not correct. He told the jury when they retire they’ll have the assistance of the footage and transcripts.

Mr Dryden told the jury that the transcript for this incident will show them that in fact it was “another member of staff who first spoke to Patient 4 about taking his medication”.

When the other staff member says to Patient 4 take your medication, that’s not an offence. When Mr Sanderson uses virtually exactly the same language, that amounts to ill-treatment, according to the prosecution.

Mr Dryden told the jury that they have to consider the role of Olivia Davies in this.

She is supposed to be a neutral, passive observer in Whorlton, simply recording what’s happening and not involving herself in the events she reports.

When you look at the transcript of this particular incident, what you see is Olivia Davies saying to Mr Sanderson “are you going to wind him up?”

Well, why is she saying that? Why is she saying anything? Does it need to be said at that point?

Is she simply recording the incident or trying to engineer a response from Mr Sanderson, bearing in mind she’s recording footage at the time.

You’ve got the transcript, you can have a look at it.

Mr Sanderson asks Patient 4 once to take his medication. He didn’t ask him repeatedly. He didn’t mention his diabetes which is a known trigger as far as the careplan is concerned.

It suggests he smirks as he’s walking away from Patient 4. Well he did, and he does that. It’s a matter for you what weight you put on that … would hope the smirk by itself isn’t the reason he’s here in the Crown Court.

Mr Dryden asked the jury to look at the full exchange between Mr Sanderson and Patient 4, telling them that their last exchange isn’t recorded on the transcript, but it is in the footage when they look at it in the entirety and not the slightly edited version.

You see Patient 4 shouting the words “fucking liar”, that can be heard, then what you see and hear is Mr Sanderson, in a normal tone of voice, not shouting, just replying quiet, calmly to Patient 4. He said “it’s right Patient 4, if we don’t get our meds … if you’re refusing you’re not helping yourself either”. That’s it. No more than that.

Watch all of it and ask yourself is it really being suggested that can amount to ill-treatment, as far as that clip is concerned.

Mr Dryden told the jury he’d then address Count 22 “this is the physical confrontation, if I paraphrase it like that” from 25 February.

This is a classic example of what I was talking about earlier regarding context. I’m sure when you first saw that footage, cold so to speak, what you see is a younger man, Mr Sanderson appearing to have a physical confrontation towards an older, smaller man who’s got learning difficulties.

That’s unpleasant isn’t it, but now you’ve got more detail about what was happening at the time. The defence say you should put those images in context.

Context is this, we have a young, immature, effectively untrained support worker, who has been seriously injured twice at work. In fact he’s still wearing a support splint on his right wrist.

What he’s doing is trying to control a situation involving a patient who is habitually violent towards staff members.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight and careful analysis, Mr Sanderson may well have acted differently. He may well have used different language. Bear in mind there was no actual physical contact at all as far as Mr Sanderson was concerned, between himself and Patient 4.

You may think it wasn’t actually in Mr Sanderson’s interest to engage in physical confrontation with Patient 4, bearing in mind what had happened during the course of his employment.

Mr Dryden told the jury that Mr Sanderson had been badly injured on two occasions, requiring months and months off work.

Why was he doing it?

Why was he behaving like that?

Why was he using that sort of language?

Because he’d been told if he didn’t act firmly in this type of situation he was likely to be attacked. That was his view, that’s what he thought.

You’ve also been presented with what has been described as the Divider 8 material of supporting footage. Can I say at the outset that nothing in Divider 8. None of that material … amounted to a criminal offence, nothing in Divider 8 amounts to a criminal offence.

What the footage in Divider 8 shows is Mr Sanderson using coarse, puerile, childish, obscene language to Ms Davies, in the absence of Patient 1 and Patient 4, and any other members of staff.

We have a lot of silly exaggerated talk about decking people, drop kicking people, strangling people, unplugging phones.

There’s not a shred of evidence Mr Sanderson engaged in any sort of behaviour of that type.

There’s no evidence any of that behaviour was ever carried out by him, but what perhaps it does show is his level of maturity at the time when he was making those comments.

He’s slightly embarrassed about those comments he’s making, he was embarrassed about them then, is certainly embarrassed about them now.

Look at what happened, not what was said.

Mr Dryden told the jury that a good example is where Mr Sanderson talks about decking people, and he told them that Count 22 was his big chance when he’s having a confrontation with Patient 4.

Patient 4 punches at one point Mr Sanderson, appears to be some contact. This is his big moment, he can deck him can’t he? Punch him? Restrain him? He doesn’t know he’s being filmed at the time, here is a golden opportunity to behave violently towards Patient 4.

What does Mr Sanderson do? Nothing. He doesn’t make any physical contact at all.

The defence say that is an example of Mr Sanderson talking the talk, for whatever reason, but when it came to it he didn’t behave like that, he didn’t act like that.

Mr Dryden told the jury that he wished to address a couple of brief matters before closing. He told them that they knew Mr Sanderson was dismissed from Whorlton Hall on 6 March 2019. He said that a staff member had made a complaint regarding comments Mr Sanderson had made. Mr Dryden told the jury that Mr Sanderson does not accept making those comments, and they had not heard from the staff member who said he’d made those comments.

So you might think, this is not really an employment tribunal, as far as dismissal how can that help you.

He does not accept making those comments in the presence of [withheld].

Timing is quite important though. You know 12 February 2019 Mr Sanderson instructed solicitors to effectively sue the company in respect of those two serious assaults. He was putting in two personal injury claims in respect of those two assaults.

Mr Dryden told the jury that Mr Sanderson’s claim was instigated on 12 February and that the following month Mr Sanderson had been dismissed. He said it was appealed but “not surprisingly the appeal failed”.

We simply say the timing as far as the company were concerned was quite helpful.

Mr Dryden told the jury that he didn’t suggest that the company were behind the allegation made on 6 March, they simply say there was an incident and he was dismissed.

Mr Dryden then told the jury that Mr Sanderson was interviewed by the police on three occasions. He told the jury that he gave a full account in his first and second interview, but unfortunately on the second occasion the recording equipment wasn’t working.

Mr Dryden told the jury that in Mr Sanderson’s first interview he was asked by a police officer if whilst employed at Whorlton Hall he had ever mistreat patients in any way, and he said no. Mr Dryden told the jury that he was then asked if he had been in any way responsible for any treatment of patients which could be described as cruel and he said he was not sure. Mr Dryden told the jury they have a copy of that interview.

That comment, not sure, is not an admission by Mr Sanderson of any type of wrongdoing.

Mr Dryden told the jury that was simply Mr Sanderson not knowing what the elements of the offence were when he was being interviewed by the police officer. He told them that they have the benefit of the ingredients of ill-treatment from HHJ Smith, but Mr Sanderson did not have that.

Mr Sanderson didn’t have that framework, didn’t know what the allegation actually was. He didn’t know what would make him guilty … when he says “not sure” he isn’t. Because he doesn’t know what the elements of the offence are. So how does he know whether he’s guilty or not?

When you look at this case in the round ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the defence say as far as Mr Sanderson is concerned you cannot be sure he’s guilty of either offence of ill-treatment in this case.

He may be guilty of inexperience, youth, stupidity and immaturity.

He may be guilty of bad practice, but he is not guilty of ill-treatment in Counts 16 or 22. Thank you very much.

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