Nurse who assaulted elderly patients spared prison term

A NURSE found guilty of assaulting elderly residents at a care home was yesterday branded “a disgrace to the profession”, but narrowly escaped jail.

Margaret Richmond, 54, admitted assaulting two of the residents of the Westlea Care Home in Renfrewshire between 2007 and 2008.

During the trial at Paisley Sheriff Court, Richmond from Gateside, North Ayrshire, changed her plea and admitted to two of the charges. She admitted assaulting Mary Hamill, 86, by slapping her on the face and assaulting Peggy Bakels, 88, on one occasion by pulling her ear.

It was originally claimed she carried out five different assaults on those in her care, mistreating her alleged victims – aged between 74 and 88 years of age over a ten-month period. But following evidence from a care officer, Richmond offered to plead guilty to two of the five charges against her which was accepted by the Crown.

Yesterday Sheriff Neil Douglas said: “In my view this is a deliberate and despicable cruelty to these vulnerable people and a disgrace to the nursing profession. Clearly custody is uppermost in my mind. You crossed the line, but you have pled guilty to the charges. The charges of assault against you are at the lower end of the scale therefore I will sentence you to 240 hours community service.”

The court heard that mother-of-one Richmond had been nursing for 22 years, but has since written to the General Nursing Council to request deregistration.

Defending his client, Stephen Hughes said: “It is difficult to imagine individuals who are more vulnerable than dementia sufferers who are being cared for. It must be upsetting as well for them and also for the families who entrusted their relatives to care.

“We must recognise she did not have any malicious intent for her actions. I can’t find any explanation for her actions. I’m not trying to minimise what she has done. She now acknowledges the harm done to those in her care.”

Sheriff Douglas said: “It is hard to see how someone could carry out such a deliberate and despicable assault on a person who they are meant to be caring for. If it is such a difficult job she shouldn’t have been doing it.”

The Westlea Care Home, in Donnie’s Brae, Neilston, Renfrewshire cares for some 50 elderly residents. Ian MacMaster, senior manager at Scottish Care, which represents the Westlea Care home, said he was satisfied with the verdict. He added: “This is evidence that the protection of vulnerable adults in care actually works.

“The relevant authorities were contacted when evidence of the abuse was discovered and the correct procedure was followed to prosecute Mrs Richmond. Scottish Care members have all signed a voluntary code of conduct which supports the protection of vulnerable adults in care. Scottish Care is doing everything they can to try and stop incidences of this nature occurring in the future.”

No-one was available from Westlea Care home for comment when contacted yesterday.