Call For Tougher Abuse Penalties Welcomed

Winterbourne View Care Home Case Prompts Law Review

16.01.2013

MP calls for care home owners across the country to face unlimited fines and criminal sanctions in abuse cases were welcomed today by leading lawyers.

Lib Dem Paul Burstow, who will outline the proposed legislation in the Commons this Wednesday, said that tougher laws are needed to see such care providers held criminally accountable for any abuse and neglect "taking place on their watch".

The move, which has been welcomed by medical law and patients’ rights expert at law firm Irwin Mitchell, was prompted by recent cases such as Winterbourne View where the abuse of patients was filmed as part of a Panorama investigation.

A Care Quality Commission investigation into the home later found that staff lacked sufficient training and supervision. It went on to criticise the home for failing to identify and prevent abuse before it happened.

The ex Ministers proposals, which hit the headlines today, include:

  • Amending existing legislation to make a corporate body guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed by its board or senior management neglects or is a substantial element in the existence and/or possibility of abuse or neglect
  • Offences should be punishable by unlimited fines, remedial orders and publicity orders
  • Those with relevant information about suspected abuse or neglect must supply information to Adult Safeguarding Boards if requested to do so

Jonathan Peacock, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell’s Bristol office, specialises in helping those affected by care home abuse and fought for justice on behalf of families affected by serious care problems at the notorious Maypole Nursing Home in Birmingham.

Commenting on the proposed legislation, he said: “This is a very welcome move which would see justice done for victims of abuse, and their families.”

“Ensuring that the law allows unlimited fines and criminal sanctions for those who fail to ensure their residents are safe would send a very clear message to other home owners going forward that abuse and neglect of any kind is simply unacceptable.”

“Staff at care homes should always be properly trained to ensure they have the necessary skills to provide the best possible care to residents, who are often some of the most vulnerable members of society.”

Norman Lamb, who succeeded Mr Burstow as care minister in September, has indicated that the government is prepared to look at criminal sanctions as one of a number of options.

He has said the firm which owned Winterbourne View, which closed after the BBC's Panorama uncovered evidence of widespread abuse in 2011, should pay towards the cost of the various inquiries into the scandal.

If you or a loved one has been abused or neglected whilst in a care, our care & nursing home abuse claims team could help you to secure compensation. See our Elder Abuse Compensation Claims page for more information.