Care Home Boss Denies Assault

A Somerton care home director has gone on trial, accused of assaulting a 17-year-old girl with Asperger syndrome.

Stephen Hyland, managing director of Synergy Child Services Ltd, is alleged to have used a restraint procedure on the girl and taken her to the ground without reason after he had been drinking in a Somerton pub on 12 December 2006.

District Judge Morgan, sitting at Wells Magistrates’ Court yesterday, was told that Hyland, aged 51, of Prospect House, Aller Road, Langport, met the girl and her two on-duty carers for a drink at Somerton Hotel, greeting them with the remark that he was a bit drunk.

During the evening, the four of them played pool and Hyland ordered more drinks. He then sat down with the girl and taught her some card and coin tricks, the court heard.

Prosecution witness and care worker Susan Stephen said the mood suddenly changed when the group went to leave the pub. The girl asked one of the carers for her mobile phone back and Hyland asked, in a sharp and abrupt tone of voice, why she wanted it because she had used her phone inappropriately in the past.

Mrs Stephen said the girl appeared confused by the question but said she wanted the phone because it was hers.

“She was not being cheeky but just said she wanted her phone, which was where the literal part of her Asperger’s came in,” she said.

Hyland asked the two carers to back him up, but neither felt the girl had spoken rudely or inappropriately.

The court was told the conversation escalated outside the pub. Hyland became increasingly agitated and shouted at the girl at close quarters, up against a wall.

“He was almost touching her face, with his nose against hers, and told her to look him in the eye,” said Mrs Stephen.

When the girl started make reference to her moving back to Reading, where she came from, Hyland was alleged to have shouted: “You are not in control, I am, and you are not going anywhere.”

On the walk back to Lyndon Care House, Hyland held the girl’s shoulder in a manoeuvre usually used to steer people away from danger, and Mrs Stephen said she could see no reason for him to have done this.

“Suddenly she was on the floor and I nearly tripped over her,” she said. “She was lying on the ground on her back and Hyland was standing over her.

“It was such a shock and there was nothing that gave me any indication of why she was taken to the ground, and she then started crying and was upset.”

When the group arrived at the home, which specialises in providing foster care for children aged between nine and 18 with behavioural difficulties or special needs, Mrs Stephen phoned the duty manager for advice.

“I did not understand why things had got so aggressive and why his attitude had changed so much,” she said.

When Mrs Stephen returned to the girl’s flat, Hyland told her she had bitten his finger, which was why he had used the restraint.

Hyland denies common assault and the case continues.