Carers Left Special Needs Trio Locked In Car

A care home boss and his employee have admitted leaving three of their residents locked in a car for hours after they went to a betting shop.

{mosimage}Manager Chris Williams, 43, and carer Agnes Price, 41, appeared at Swindon Magistrates’ Court to admit the wilful neglect or ill treatment of three adults with learning difficulties who were in their care.

The case is the first of its kind in Swindon, with the pair prosecuted under the new Mental Capacity Act 2004 that came into force this year.

The two were told by district judge Mike Layman that they will go to crown court for sentencing and could be sent to prison.

On September 6, the pair took their clients out from the Whiteman Street home in a people carrier and parked in Ferndale Road, the court heard.

They were seen going into a nearby bookmaker’s at about 1pm and three hours later the police received an anonymous tip-off that three men were shut in a car and were distressed.

The three – aged 25, 45 and 56 – are all unable to speak, communicating through touch and smell, and have varying levels of learning difficulties, including Down’s syndrome and autism.

Prosecuting, Paula Mulherne said the caller could see the vehicle’s windows were steamed up, and that the men were in a distressed state shouting and pushing each other and grabbing at the doors.

“A police officer forced entry on arrival and felt a wave of heat from the van,” she said.

“He described it as a hot and muggy day’, and that the van was hot inside and it smelt.”

Once released from the car, passers-by fetched water for the men and helped calm them down.

Police found Williams, of Queensfield, and Price, of Cricklade Road, and spoke to them.

Both accepted they had left their clients, although Williams claimed he thought a window was open and he left music on. He also accepted that they were locked in through the use of childlocks.

Price said she had checked on them once, and that they had lost track of time.

Mrs Mulherne said: “Neither accepted that they had wilfully neglected the men, although Miss Price said it was not professional behaviour.

“Each of these men is vulnerable in their own right, but the danger of harm to all three of them together is even more concerning.”

Gordon Hotson, for both defendants, asked that the early guilty plea be taken into account and requested the sentence be passed at the magistrates’ court.

Passing the case on to the higher court, Judge Layman said: “Despite what your defence says, this is a severe offence.”