Judge questions council over care of autistic woman featured in BBC documentary

A judge has questioned the way council social services bosses handled the care of an autistic woman in her early 20s who featured in a BBC Panorama documentary which raised concerns about the treatment of patients at an NHS-funded private hospital.

Mr Justice Hayden said he is concerned about a number of aspects of the woman’s case and wants explanations from a senior manager at Staffordshire County Council, which has responsibility for her welfare.

He considered the woman’s case at a public hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London and raised concern in a ruling.

Social services bosses at Staffordshire council have asked him to make decisions relating to her mental capacity.

The woman featured in a Panorama documentary, broadcast in May, about Whorlton Hall hospital near Barnard Castle, County Durham.

Police are investigating following allegations that patients were abused and a number of arrests have been made.

The 17-bed facility, where the woman had been placed, has been closed.

Bosses at Cygnet, the company which ran Whorlton Hall, have said they are “shocked and deeply saddened” and are working with police.

“The entire history of the last 18 months reveals a very vulnerable young woman,” said Mr Justice Hayden in his ruling.

“The state has made decisions which have not only been ineffective in assisting her but has sometimes, despite its best intentions, acted in a way which was harmful to her.”

Mr Justice Hayden was told that the woman was now living at a different facility.

The judge, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, is due to reconsider her case at another Court of Protection hearing in the near future.

He said the woman, who was named as “Alex” in the Panorama programme, could not be fully identified in media reports of the case.

But he said Staffordshire County Council could be named.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture – Image from the BBC Panorama documentary (c) BBC / PA Wire.

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