Bristol Care Home Owner Loses Jail Appeal

A care home owner who assaulted an 80-year-old resident has been jailed for eight weeks after losing an appeal against his sentence.

Danny Purgaus, 59, was originally handed 12 weeks’ custody by magistrates for manhandling Ron Thomas at Overnhill House residential home in Downend.

Following an appeal at Bristol Crown Court, in which Purgaus sought to have the jail term suspended, he was told to serve an immediate eight weeks in prison instead.

Imposing sentence the recorder, Mr Nigel Pascoe QC, said: “Your conduct was disgraceful. We take the view the inevitable custody can be reduced, but it must be served.”

Paul Ricketts, prosecuting, said pensioner Mr Thomas went to stay at Overnhill House in December last year, using a frame to walk having suffered a stroke and been diagnosed with type-two diabetes.

Mr Thomas subsequently gave an interview to authorities describing how, after a meal, he and other residents felt cold in a living room and asked Purgaus for the fire to be put on. Mr Ricketts told the court: “The appellant said the fire was on and the room wasn’t cold. Mr Thomas asked for the fire to be put on. At this point the appellant lifted Mr Thomas from where he was sat, by grabbing his collar area.

“Mr Thomas was dragged across the room, eight to 10 feet to where the fire was to be shown that the fire was on.

“The appellant left Mr Thomas by the fireplace, leaving him to crawl back to his seat.”

Mr Thomas added that Purgaus had told him if he did not like it he could go elsewhere, and he reported what happened to both his daughter and social worker. Mr Thomas gave an additional statement in which he said he had felt like a second-class citizen.

He later said he was very pleased Purgaus had been found guilty of common assault and he hoped he would never be able to work in care homes again.

“I do feel I have got over the assault?” he said. “It made me feel very low for a long time. The way he dragged me and left me made me feel helpless as I wasn’t strong enough to stand up.”

Giles Nelson, for Purgaus, urged that the prison sentence be suspended on the grounds that his client had been deemed to represent a low risk of offending in future and was thought to be suitable for unpaid work.

Mr Nelson said his client arrived in the UK from Mauritius in 1970 and qualified as a nurse, specialising in mental health from 1975 and attaining further qualifications regarding the care of elderly people. The court heard that having worked in a number of places Purgaus and his wife took over Overnhill House in 1996.

He said that since its closure in January his client had thrown himself into several voluntary jobs as well as his 25-year involvement as a committee member for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Mr Nelson told the court that last year financial pressures had caused stress for his client and that his wife felt she had had enough of running the home but Purgaus was committed to continue it. Purgaus has since found a new job in a superstore on a modest wage, the court heard, while Overnhill House is being sold.

After the hearing Margaret Byrne, 49, a deputy manager at the care home for five and a half years, said residents saw Purgaus as “being a bit of a bully”.

Mrs Byrne called the Commission for Social Care Inspection in October 2007 to raise her concerns but when inspectors visited, both staff and residents were too scared to speak up.

When Mrs Byrne contacted the CSCI again in January with further concerns the home was closed down within 48 hours.

She said: “I am delighted with the sentence because Purgaus has now got plenty of time to contemplate his actions.”

Mr Thomas’s daughter Annette, 51, of Frenchay, said “Mr Purgaus abused his position and I think that the fact he has been a nurse for 30 years and the fact he’s done voluntary work has nothing to do with it. I am very pleased he won’t be able to run a home again.”