Silent scandal on wards for the elderly: Three female hospital carers arrested and department shut after ‘cruel abuse’ of geriatric patients
Police have arrested three female NHS workers over allegations that they assaulted vulnerable and frail elderly patients on a hospital ward. The arrests came after student nurses reported concerns that a number of patients were being abused physically and verbally on a ward at Whipps Cross University Hospital in East London.
The women, all healthcare assistants employed to carry out basic feeding and washing duties, have been suspended by the hospital and barred from working anywhere in the NHS while an urgent investigation is conducted by police and hospital bosses.
Beech Ward, which usually houses about 20 female patients, has been closed as a result of the allegations. It treats ill and elderly patients suffering from dementia and recovering from operations, strokes and falls.
It is not known how many of the patients have been affected by the alleged abuse. Last night, the daughter of a 91-year-old woman who spent time on the ward earlier this year after a fall described her treatment as ‘cruel’.
Senior managers at the hospital, which is governed by Barts Health NHS Trust, have interviewed 69 patients treated there over an eight-week period between February and April this year to establish the extent of any reported misconduct. The hospital has refused to disclose further details of the allegations and a spokesman said it had so far not found any evidence of harm to patients.
But the police this week passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will decide whether formal criminal charges can be brought.
John Cryer, the local Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead, said: ‘It’s stomach-churning to hear things like this might have happened. I am stunned that the Trust don’t seem to have bothered to let anyone, not even locally-elected representatives, know about this. They seem to think they can sweep it under the carpet.’
The alarm was first raised by student nurses working on Beech Ward, one of several geriatric wards at the hospital, in April. The nurses, who have not been identified, became concerned after observing patients being ‘roughly handled’ by healthcare assistants (HCAs) and being spoken to by the same staff ‘inappropriately’.
The hospital immediately suspended three members of staff and alerted the health regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the Metropolitan Police.
Police made the arrests on the same day and all three were bailed. They are forbidden from working at any hospitals run by Barts Health NHS Trust, and have also been suspended from the NHS Professionals staff bank system so they cannot work shifts at any NHS hospital.
Beech Ward was initially closed to new arrivals and then closed altogether. A spokesman for the hospital said this was to ‘draw a line under events on the ward’.
This week it appeared staff had been warned not to discuss the investigation or the allegations. A nurse who answered the phone in Bracken Ward, another geriatric department at the hospital, confirmed Beech Ward had been closed but, when asked about the inquiry, said: ‘You will have to speak to the operator.’ Another nurse, who answered the phone in a neighbouring ward, said: ‘I can’t discuss this on the telephone. I’m not supposed to talk about that.’
The CQC carried out an inspection at the hospital on May 1 to assess whether the hospital was taking suitable action to protect patients.
The report, seen by The Mail on Sunday, said: ‘It was confirmed that staff involved in the alleged abuse had been suspended from all duties by the Trust, reported to the police and subsequently arrested and bailed. Actions taken had ensured that the staff concerned would not work in a care setting while the investigation continued.
‘We were told all patients had been spoken to individually by the matrons, who asked people if they had any concerns or any comments about their care. The hospital had prepared a list of all staff who had worked on the ward and all patients admitted over the last four weeks for the police, as requested.’
The report also revealed that a senior management team at the hospital was initially meeting three times a day to discuss the progress of the investigation.
The probe is being overseen by Dr Nancy Fontaine, director of nursing at Whipps Cross University Hospital and deputy chief of nursing across Barts Health NHS Trust. In a phone call to the concerned relative of one patient this week, Dr Fontaine said: ‘When we called patients or their carers, we wanted feedback on any rough handling, inappropriate communication or tone of voice.
‘Some of the things [we found in our investigation] aren’t criminal but they’ve contravened internal codes of practice. They [the staff] have been removed, but that doesn’t mean they’re guilty. No patients complained – we had nothing but wonderful comments from families. ‘I highly commend these student nurses for doing this.’
HCAs, formerly known as auxiliary nurses, are not medically trained and are employed to carry out basic, non-clinical duties. These generally include washing and dressing patients, accompanying patients to the toilet, making beds and taking temperatures and pulse and respiration rates.
Unlike doctors and nurses, they do not have to be registered or regulated – which means that if they are sacked for misconduct, they can get a job elsewhere.
The Royal College of Nursing has complained hospitals are increasingly replacing nurses with cheaper, untrained HCAs to meet savings targets. There have been growing calls for the introduction of tighter standards and regulation for HCAs.
In 2011, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley set out plans to introduce minimum basic training standards and a code of conduct. But he stopped short of recommending a mandatory register. A voluntary one will be introduced next year.
Sandra Mann, whose mother, Alice Sack, was treated on Beech Ward for six weeks between January and March this year, does not believe she witnessed any abuse but described her experience of the ward as ‘absolutely awful – diabolical’.
Mrs Sack, 91, has dementia but was living independently before being admitted to Whipps Cross after a fall. She has now been transferred to a nursing home.
Mrs Mann, 70, from Loughton, Essex, said: ‘My mother picked up several infections while she was there, including C.difficile. ‘She would vomit and I had to ask for help to clean her up. They were all too busy. When I asked if I should give her water, the staff said: “Yes, I suppose so.” I saw some staff putting food down in front of patients and walking away, without feeding them.
‘My mum would say to me, “Why don’t the nurses come? You ring the buzzer but they won’t come.” How cruel is that? There was a lady who would cry “Help me” all day long. She possibly had Alzheimer’s but no one paid any attention to her.’ Mrs Mann says she complained several times to a member of management at the hospital, who apologised and promised it would not happen again. She has not made a formal complaint, but did receive a phone call from staff regarding the hospital investigation.
‘They asked if I was happy with my mother’s care and said anything I said would be passed to the police. I don’t know what’s wrong with them. They’re overworked and don’t earn a lot. But don’t take the job if you don’t want people asking for help.’
A hospital spokesman said: ‘It is good that management spoke to Mrs Mann and that she has contributed to the investigation. If she had launched a formal complaint, she would have received a formal response.’
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Three people have been arrested on suspicion of common assault on a number of elderly patients. All three remain on police bail while a decision is made by the Crown Prosecution Service regarding any charges. They are bailed to return to an East London police station on July 27.’ Common assault carries a maximum prison sentence of six months.
A statement from Barts Health NHS Trust said: ‘The allegations brought to us were of physical and verbal abuse of vulnerable patients.
‘The issue was raised with senior nursing staff at Whipps Cross University Hospital in April and the hospital management team reacted immediately. We informed the Care Quality Commission, the local Metropolitan Police and Waltham Forest Council’s adult safeguarding team, and we have continued to work with these organisations since. ‘No formal complaints have been raised with Barts Health by any of these patients or their relatives. The Trust investigation is ongoing.’
A Department of Health spokesman said he was unable to confirm when Government officials had been informed of the allegations, or if the hospital alerted Ministers directly. He said: ‘The Department of Health is aware of a police investigation into abuse allegations at Whipps Cross hospital. As the investigation is ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.’
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, MP for neighbouring Chingford and Woodford Green, called the allegations ‘appalling’, adding: ‘If any member of the medical profession is found guilty, they must face the most severe penalty.’
Prejudice against infertility patients
Britain is the poor man of Europe in providing IVF to childless couples, figures reveal. The UK is third from bottom of the latest spending league, below Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro. Only Russia and Ireland spend less.
It is predicted British couples struggling with infertility will see the situation get worse as the recession bites, with NHS trusts continuing to make cutbacks and treating the problem as a low priority.
Experts said yesterday many doctors believe those suffering from infertility in Britain do not have the right to have a baby of their own.
A recent MPs’ report found women are routinely turned down for IVF if they are deemed too young, too old, too obese or even if their husband has a child from a previous marriage.
As many as 73 per cent of NHS trusts do not offer couples three courses of IVF, as advised by medical watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The figures were released today at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Istanbul.
Health economist Dr Mark Connolly, of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, compiled a league table of funding policies across 23 European countries.
Each country was given an index score between zero and 18 based on how many cycles of IVF would be paid for out of the public purse.
Belgium, France and Slovenia came top of the league, scoring between 14 and 18 – meaning the state was more willing to pay for treatment. Belgium introduced a scheme about ten years ago to reimburse the cost of six cycles of IVF treatment – now the most generous in Europe.
The UK, Russia and Ireland had the least generous policies and scored around two or less.
The figures also reveal that Britain not only has low levels of public funding for IVF but also carries out fewer treatment cycles, with only Germany having a lower number.
Dr Connolly said the findings show doctors give IVF to meet ‘medical need’ but some countries are falling short.
He added that parts of the UK has been ‘feeble’ in offering treatment on the NHS.
‘We are seeing cuts from funding authorities during the current recession and we are only at the start of that,’ he added.
Clare Lewis-Jones, of the National Infertility Awareness Campaign, said: ‘It is totally unacceptable that many other European countries have better service provision for infertility patients than the UK, where IVF was pioneered.
‘Infertility treatment has for too long been seen as a low priority, failing the one in six couples who live with the devastating impact this illness has on their lives.
‘Those suffering from the disease of infertility have the right to expect the chance to try to have a healthy baby of their own.’
NICE guidelines state that couples should be considered for up to three free cycles of IVF between 23 and 39 after trying unsuccessfully for a year to start a family.
It is expanding its criteria for free treatment to scrap the lower age limit and suggests infertility should be treated as soon as possible, because the chances of success decline with age.
The rationing body also says IVF should be made available to women aged 40 to 42 and extended to gay and lesbian couples. But local NHS trusts have always imposed their own restrictions regardless of national guidance. Some allow only one treatment cycle, others have additional age restrictions and some will not pay for spare eggs to be frozen for future use.
More than 46,000 women had IVF in 2010 and around 40 per cent were NHS patients.
Treatment in the private sector, where clinics tend to set age limits higher than the NHS, costs £5,000 on average including tests, drugs and at least one IVF cycle.
Dr Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society, said fertility specialists were frustrated at infertility being treated as if it was a ‘lifestyle choice’ rather than a serious problem. He added: ‘Some people have their heads in the sand, they allow a personal view to affect the trust’s policy on fertility.’
The foreign criminals Britain doesn’t try to deport
Two hundred and fifty foreign criminals who should have been deported at the end of their prison sentences were allowed to stay in Britain on human rights grounds last year without their claims being challenged in court.
In each case, the Home Office accepted their argument that deporting them would breach their human rights rather than asking a judge to decide. The number has increased fivefold in four years, throwing into doubt the commitment of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to deporting foreign criminals.
They were allowed to stay despite Damian Green, the immigration minister, telling the Commons last December that the Government was “doing everything in our power to increase the number and speed of removals”.
The figures, disclosed to The Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act, show that there were 56 such cases in 2008, rising to 80 in 2009, 217 in 2010 and 250 in 2011 and that:
• In 2011, at least one terrorist – and possibly up to four – was allowed to stay, as well as up to eight killers and rapists. Also among the total were 20 robbers and up to eight paedophiles, plus as many as four people convicted of firearms offences.
• In 2010, the Home Office conceded in the cases of up to four murderers and up to four people convicted of manslaughter, as well as up to four rapists, up to eight paedophiles and 43 people convicted of violent crime or robbery.
The Home Office refused to name any of the 250 criminals, even though all have been convicted in open court of serious crimes that command a prison sentence of at least one year.
It also refused to disclose numbers of many categories of criminal. A spokesman said this was “in order to protect individual identities”.
The Home Office said there was a “strong likelihood” the criminals would have won their case if it had gone to court, meaning it was futile to attempt to deport them. A spokesman said: “There is no point in wasting taxpayers’ money contesting cases where we were advised we would lose. We examined each claim individually but case law based on the old rules meant the courts were highly likely to uphold them.
“In every case, and regardless of the crime, deportation cannot take place if doing so would breach the UK’s international obligations under, for example, the European Convention on Human Rights or the Refugee Convention.
“The rights of the individual are assessed in all cases and UKBA does concede deportation where there is a strong likelihood that those rights would be breached.”
The existence of the 250 emerged after Mrs May introduced tougher rules for courts on the use of the “right to family life” to stay in Britain in response to The Sunday Telegraph’s End The Human Rights Farce campaign. They came into force last week and have yet to be tested by the courts, but do not apply to previous cases.
The spokesman said the new rules would reduce the number of successful appeals to stay, and also the number of uncontested cases.
In addition to the 250 criminals allowed to stay last year, other figures have previously disclosed there were a further 409 who won their cases in the courts after bringing appeals.
Politicians expressed concern at the ease with which the criminals had stayed.
Chris Bryant, the Labour shadow immigration minister, said: “Theresa May has been trying to blame the Human Rights Act for not being able to deport foreign national offenders, but it’s becoming clearer every day that the real problem is her inability to get a grip of her department.”
Mrs May or Mr Green would have been informed of the decision to allow the most serious offenders to remain, sources said.
A UK Border Agency source said ministers would have been asked to approve the decision in the most serious cases.
And a former senior figure in the Home Office said: “Any remotely serious case will have been referred up to Minister of State level and, in all likelihood, to the Home Secretary.
“This action would have been taken by officials even if they thought they had copper-bottomed legal advice, especially since the foreign national prisoners affair in 2006 which cost Charles Clarke [the former home secretary] his job.”
However, the Home Office refused to say whether ministers knew that serious criminals stay in Britain unchallenged — or approved that decision. A spokesman said: “We don’t comment on internal processes.”
One of the cases where deportation was dropped is of an illegal immigrant convicted of organising Britain’s biggest sham marriage racket.
Vladimir Buchak, a 34-year-old Ukrainian, was released from jail a year ago but has not been sent home because he has two children in Britain.
Buchak paid eastern Europeans with the right to live in Britain up to £3,000 to marry Africans. European rules therefore allowed the Africans to stay. The Rev Alex Brown, his co-defendant, was also jailed for four years for carrying more than 360 bogus weddings at the Church of St Peter and St Paul in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.
The Home Office confirmed that Buchak’s deportation is on hold while the UKBA reviews “recent case law in respect of the rights of Mr Buchak’s children”.
The Home Office’s decision not to fight the cases in the court is brought further into question by cases it has won.
In May, it won a case against deportation by a suspected Afghan war criminal. Abdul Rahim Nassery, 44, a former mujahideen commander, spent five years fighting the case partly on human rights grounds, but lost.
In January, a Turk accused of assaults and other crimes claimed he should not be deported because of his right to family life. But the Home Office defended the case and Deniz Kavak, 36, was told he had to leave the country.
According to the Home Office, 1,888 overseas offenders lodged appeals under Human Rights Act legislation last year. Of these, 409 were allowed to stay — 185 because the criminal had a right to a “family life” in Britain under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Commonwealth soldiers face deportation
Commonwealth soldiers who have risked their lives for Britain are facing deportation and destitution under new rules which deny them British citizenship
Commonwealth recruits to the British forces can claim citizenship after four years’ service.
But a Sunday Telegraph investigation has found that a growing number are being refused it. Unable to work or claim benefits, they and their families rely on charity handouts to survive.
Veterans’ groups say they are seeing dozens of new cases every month as the rule changes bite.
“This is turning into a major problem for us, and for the people involved it can be a total disaster,” said Hugh Milroy, chief executive of Veterans’ Aid. “As a nation, we should hang our heads in shame at what is being done to these people.”
Lance-Corporal Bale Balewai, a Fijian, served for 13 years in the Army, including operational tours to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, winning four medals, exemplary reports from his commanding officers and even being used in recruitment adverts.
He has a British wife and children. But he has been refused citizenship, banned from working, and faces imminent removal – because he once accepted a commanding officer’s punishment after getting into a fight with another soldier.
The punishment was imposed at a military summary hearing in the CO’s office lasting ten minutes. L/Cpl Balewai had no legal representation.
No witnesses were called and he was not told that five other soldiers were prepared to testify that he had acted in self-defence.
However, for immigration purposes, a military summary punishment counts the same as a criminal conviction in a civilian court, disqualifying the applicant from citizenship.
Under the old rules, discretion was allowed and would almost certainly have been granted for such a minor, non-criminal offence.
However, since April last year all discretion has been removed and anyone with any offence whatever must be refused.
Dozens have fallen victim, including a gunner from 12 Regiment, Royal Artillery, who wanted to plead not guilty to a charge of careless driving but was sent to Afghanistan and convicted in his absence.
“It is grossly unfair that despite their service to the country, soldiers are actually worse hit by this than anything else,” said Dr Milroy.
“Military offences include huge numbers of things which are not offences in civilian life. We fully expect to see good and loyal Commonwealth soldiers refused citizenship for failing to salute, or not having their boots shined.”
In other cases, Commonwealth soldiers are not told about a rule that they must apply for citizenship within 28 days of leaving the Army. MoD guidance on its website states the rule.
Anyone who misses the limit is treated as an “overstayer” subject to removal and banned from working.
Though immigration rules are supposed to allow soldiers two years, “overstayers” must return home and apply from there. Kaedon White, from Jamaica, who taught Prince Harry to drive an armoured reconnaissance vehicle, missed the deadline. Unable to work or claim benefits, he relied on support from Veterans’ Aid until winning temporary leave to remain this year.
In further cases, even ex-soldiers who apply on time are kept waiting in poverty, unable to work or get welfare, until their applications are decided – a process which can take years.
More than 7,000 foreign and Commonwealth soldiers serve in the Army, which has actively sought them and could not manage without them. At least 45 have been killed on active service since 2003, including seven so far this year alone.
Dr Milroy said Veterans’ Aid had seen 100 Commonwealth soldiers, including a number who the charity was having to put up in hostels because they were homeless and destitute.
L/Cpl Balewai, 32, said: “I feel really betrayed and angry at the fact that after 13 years of service I am just a number to the Home Office, in the queue behind Abu Hamza and his cronies”
Don’t buy into Britain’s supermarket spying
Lib-Con plans to ‘nudge’ us into making healthier shopping decisions exposes how anti-democratic nudge theory is
Not content with already nannying and nudging us in various ways, and using sin taxes to regulate our consumption habits, Britain’s Lib-Con coalition government is now pursuing another policy of paternalism. It is aiming to gain access to the shopping habits of 25million people through the information saved on their supermarket loyalty cards, such as the Sainsbury’s Nectar card or Tesco Club Cards. That way, it can work out where we’re going ‘wrong’ in terms of what we buy and eat, and nudge us in the ‘right’ direction.
Supermarkets keep a complete record of all our purchases if we use a club card. But that information was traditionally only used to aim store promotions at customers, based on their previous purchasing habits. Now, prime minister David Cameron says he backs the idea that such information should be used to try to nudge people towards making better, healthier choices. Other senior Tories, however, including health secretary Andrew Lansley, are worried that this all adds up to government snooping.
By getting a glimpse into what people buy from the supermarket, right down to the last rasher of bacon and can of Carlsberg, the government hopes to devise ways to make our weekly shop healthier. People will be targeted with specific health advice. So presumably, those who purchase a case of Stella [beer] on a Friday evening will be subtly alerted to the dangers of alcohol and kindly asked to refrain from drinking too much, while those who regularly purchase white bread will be asked to consider the wholemeal option. Parents might also be chastised if their supermarket shop suggests they aren’t providing their children with a ‘balanced diet’.
An O-word, named after a certain Eric Arthur Blair, comes to mind. The idea of a government agency poring over the public’s shopping habits, and then suggesting healthier options, is a strange and paternalistic one. It assumes the public are too stupid to decide for themselves what to buy and eat. In the government’s eyes, the only reason someone’s Tesco Club Card might show up a lot of beer-buying is because that person is oblivious to the health implications of drinking, and therefore needs a friendly ‘nudge’ in the right direction. It couldn’t possibly be that, despite knowing about the relationship between alcohol and health, he has decided to get pissed nonetheless.
It should come as no surprise that this latest attempt to change people’s choices comes from the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insight Team (BIT). BIT, commonly known as the Nudge Unit, was set up two years ago to utilise behavioural economics theory to ‘nudge’ people into making what are considered to be the correct lifestyle choices. The Nudge Unit’s purpose is to find ways to ‘encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves’ – though what qualifies these policy wonks to know what the ‘better choices’ are is unclear.
The Nudge Unit believes that small nudges and external stimuli can encourage people to become healthier. This means it hopes to change the way we perceive and see the world around us, and how we interact with it, too. To the Nudge Unit, the public are a bit like Pavlov’s dogs – ring a bell, provide some new stimulation to the brain, and everyone will unconsciously start salivating at the mouth to make new and improved eating, drinking and lifestyle choices.
The central idea is that people can’t be trusted to make decisions on their own, and so the government must get stuck into our day-to-day lives. But if the average person can’t be trusted to know what the right choice is, why is the Behavioural Insight Team any different? How is it that these people know what the right choices are? Perhaps they view themselves as an enlightened elite who must lord it over the feeble-minded masses, gently nudging us in the right direction, like shepherds herding the sheeple to the land of correct thinking.
This elite mindset is antithetical to democracy. The idea of democracy is that people are able to decide for themselves how to live their lives and also what the future of their society should look like. That is, democracy is, or should be, based on the idea that people know what is in their own best interests. And so we have the right to elect people who we believe will shape society as we would like it to be shaped. The ideas of the Nudge Unit negate this basic principle of democracy; in fact, they call into question the very idea of democracy, which can’t really exist if people are seen as incapable of making good decisions even in the supermarket aisles, never mind the voting booth.
The idea that the government knows what is best for us redefines the democratic relationship, the relationship between free citizens and those who govern. Rather than being viewed as active and conscious agents who should get to say what society should look like, we are turned into a mass to be manipulated by officials who believe they know best what we should look like. Elected politicians are turned from representatives of the demos into shepherds overlooking their fickle flock.
Think of cost before bringing charges, British prosecutors told
I don’t agree with Keir Starmer across the board by any manner of means. He is well to the Left of me. But this is the first sign of sanity I have seen from the British CPS in a long while: Long overdue, if I may say so. Wasteful and foolish prosecutions have been all too common in recent years. See the article immediately following this one for a glimpse at the existing robotic mentality
Suspects may in future escape prosecution if lawyers calculate it would be too expensive to bring them to trial. For the first time Crown prosecutors will be told to consider the cost of bringing home a conviction before they lay charges.
A guide produced by Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer warns that there should be no criminal charges brought when a suspect is likely to face only a light or token punishment. The new rule, which says that prosecutions should be proportionate, raises the prospect that junior gang members could be let off rather than brought into a complex trial alongside their criminal leaders.
It could also have been used by prosecutors to avoid bringing Chelsea football captain John Terry to court. Terry was cleared last week of racism over a confrontation on the pitch with Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand. But since Terry could have faced a maximum punishment of a £2,500 fine, a prosecutor might have judged that the expense of bringing senior lawyers and large numbers of witnesses to court was too high to justify.
The introduction of the proportion test would be the first major change to the basis on which criminal charges are brought for nearly 90 years. Until now, prosecutors have had to decide whether to bring criminal charges after making two basic decisions. One is that the case has a better than even chance of resulting in a conviction, and the second is that a prosecution must be in the public interest.
A consultation paper about the new code sent out yesterday said that under the ‘proportionate’ element, prosecutors must consider ‘the cost to the prosecution service and the wider criminal justice system, especially where it could be regarded as excessive when weighed against any likely penalty.
The draft code added: ‘Cases should be capable of being prosecuted in a way that is consistent with principles of effective case management. ‘For example, in a case involving multiple offenders, prosecution might be reserved for the key participants in order to avoid excessively long and complex proceedings.’
The rewritten code – which is under consultation until the autumn – will also include new guidance on how the credibility of evidence should be assessed, a ‘streamlined’ approach to deciding whether a prosecution is in the public interest, and questions for prosecutors to consider about the seriousness of the offence, the culpability of the suspect, and the impact on victims.
Mr Starmer said: ‘Proportionality is about ensuring that we and the police are choosing the right cases to prosecute from the start, and doing so in the most effective way. ‘There may be cases – for example where a court might convict a defendant but decide not to record that conviction by giving an absolute discharge – where police officers or prosecutors might anticipate that a prosecution is not a proportionate way to approach the criminality.’
Six-month ordeal of schoolboy, 15, accused of assault for ‘throwing snowball at teen girl’
What is wrong with these cretins? Their priorities are insane. Many serious offenders are simply “cautioned” by the police and never see a courtroom
A mother has demanded an apology from the Crown Prosecution Service after her 15-year-old son was put on trial for throwing a snowball in the face of a teenage girl. The teenager was charged with assault by beating and has been dragged to court five times since the February incident.
His ordeal until only ended on Thursday when magistrates ruled there was no case to answer and threw the case out.
Yesterday, the boy’s mother said she was furious at prosecutors for ever bringing the case and denied her son had even thrown the snowball.
The woman, who cannot be identified to protect the anonymity of her son, said: ‘The past six months have been a nightmare for my son, with this ridiculous prosecution hanging over him. ‘We were so relieved when the magistrates said there was no case to answer but we are angry it ever came to this.
‘God only knows how much this prosecution has cost the taxpayer. We’ve been told it’s many thousands of pounds. What a waste of money.
‘My son has been treated like a criminal and for what? A snowball that may or may not have been thrown, may or may not have hit a person and in any case was not thrown by him.’
The maximum sentence for an adult convicted of assault by beating is six months in custody, and the Ministry of Justice said the penalty remains the same for youth offenders – although magistrates would be more likely to take account of a defendant’s young age and mitigation when sentencing at a youth court.
The teenager was arrested at his home the morning after a teenage girl complained he had thrown a snowball at her at a local recreation area.
The boy’s mother, who lives with her family in a village near Leicester, added: ‘He’s only a young boy and was frightened. He was kept in a cell all day and all night.’ She said her ‘jaw dropped’ when he was charged with assault by beating and appeared in court the following day. The court imposed bail conditions which included a 7pm to 7am curfew.
The family attended court sessions on five occasions, including a trial at Loughborough, in March, when the case was adjourned.
At Thursday’s Leicester Youth Court hearing, the teenage complainant and two other witnesses gave evidence.
But none could be sure the boy, who had been having a snowball fight with a friend, had targeted the complainant. After listening to the prosecution case, magistrates ruled there was no case to answer.
His mother added: ‘The whole thing has been totally stupid.The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should have never sanctioned this prosecution.’ She said she wanted an apology from the CPS.
Speaking after the case, the boy said: ‘I just want to put all this behind me now and get on with things. The past six months have been horrible.’
A CPS spokesman said there had been ‘clear evidence the complainant had been deliberately targeted and that this was more than just a youthful snowball fight.’
He added: ‘The evidence, including two witness statements, pointed to the fact the defendant had made and thrown the snowball and made comments of a hostile nature afterwards. ‘This, coupled with the fact that the complainant was recovering from a serious eye injury, meant a court should be asked to judge the case.
‘If, however, during a hearing, evidence by witnesses appears to fluctuate from the statements provided, a court can determine there is no case to answer .’
Guidance issued by the Sentencing Council says custodial sentences for juveniles should only be imposed in the most serious cases.
A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said: ‘The incident was fully investigated and the evidence put before the CPS to decide if charges should be brought.’
In March last year, Dean Smith, 31, of Swadlincote, Derbyshire, was handed a two-week curfew after he admitted assaulting a woman Police Community Support Officer by throwing a snowball.
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.