Posted on Thursday 27 April 2023
Four defendants have today been convicted of ill-treating patients in their care at the Whorlton Hall specialist private hospital.
All four were previously employed at the unit, near Barnard Castle, for patients with high dependency complex needs including those with mental health and disability issues.
The convictions at Teesside Crown Court followed a lengthy investigation by Durham Constabulary’s Major Crime Team.
Detective Chief Superintendent David Ashton said: “This case raises concerns, particularly for those who have vulnerable relatives or friends who require specialist care. We hope that the successful prosecution of the defendants in this case sends a clear message that the abuse of vulnerable people in specialist care settings will not be tolerated.”
“Durham Constabulary have worked closely with other agencies to prioritise the safety of those patients who, sadly, had suffered from the abuse which was exposed by the BBC Panorama documentary. We hope that the action taken provides the patients, their families and many other people involved in specialist care an element of reassurance”.
In May 2019, Durham Constabulary received reports of an impending BBC Panorama documentary regarding the abuse of patients at Whorlton Hall. A criminal investigation was launched to respond promptly to the reports. At the same time, there was close multi-agency working to accommodate the patients safely
Immediate action was taken and within 36 hours of the programme being aired, 10 carers employed at Whorlton Hall were arrested at their home addresses and interviewed by investigators. A very thorough investigation was conducted by the Constabulary’s Major Crime Team working through several months of camera footage, as well as significant amounts of documentary records and witness evidence.
Today, staff members Matthew Banner was convicted of five charges, Peter Bennett and Ryan Fuller were each convicted of two charges and John Sanderson was convicted of one count. All four are due to return to court for sentencing on July 7.
Five other defendants were found not guilty after a trial at Teesside Crown Court.
Detective Chief Superintendent David Ashton added: “We very much hope this action gives confidence to anyone who may be concerned about abuse in a care environment to speak out and report such matters.”