Vulnerable patients at a Doncaster NHS day care centre were assaulted, abused and tormented by staff, a court has been told.
Four staff from the Solar Centre, at St Catherine’s Hospital have appeared before a jury, charged with more than 50 counts between them of mistreating vulnerable adults in their care.
Sheffield Crown Court heard details of incidents involving 17 different patients, many of whom cannot communicate verbally and also have a range of physical disabilities including blindness.
Sarah Wright, prosecuting, described how some were slapped and punched, others were yanked out of wheelchairs or thrown into ball pools.
One woman was locked in a cupboard as another patient in a wheelchair was used to keep the door shut, the prosecution allege.
In another incident, two of the defendants threw cushions at a man in their care, using him as “target practice”.
Care assistants James Hinds, 59, Susan Murphy, 43, and Julie Burge, 48, deny all the charges they face as does physiotherapist Michael Barnard, 49.
Miss Wright told the jury how Hinds and Murphy both slapped patient Maxine Hughes, who was in her early 40s and has severe learning difficulties, epilepsy and scarring from severe burns when she was a child.
The prosecutor told the court: “James Hinds used to laugh, to say the marks couldn’t be seen because of the scarring to her face.”
She said Michael Kime, who has severe learning difficulties and epilepsy, was used as “target practice” by Hinds and Barnard who threw cushions at him.
“James Hinds also smacked Michael Kime around the face and head after Michael Kime had hit out at him,” Miss Wright said.
“He pulled him up by his hair and dragged him across the floor.
“Michael Kime is another service user who seemed afraid of James Hinds.”
Turning to another patient, Miss Wright said: “James Hinds boasted to other members of staff that he’d given Andrew Smith a good hiding because he was aggressive.
“Andrew Smith clearly appeared to other members of staff to be frightened of James Hinds.”
And she told the jury how Hinds would regularly grab the cheeks of Robert Kirsopp and slap him, saying to staff: “He knows the risks.”
Mr Kirsopp, who is in his 40s, has Down’s Syndrome, autism and dementia, the court heard.
The prosecutor said Hinds also pricked Mr Kirsopp with a needle during a Christmas stocking-making session.
Miss Wright told the court how Hinds and Murphy locked Marilyn Britton in a cupboard.
She said: “James Hinds actually put Richie Rowe in his wheelchair against the door to stop her getting out.
“Susan Murphy and Julie Burge were also witnessed to slap Marilyn Britton around the face.”
And, referring to Mr Rowe, she said: “James Hinds and Michael Barnard kicked him in his wheelchair backwards and forwards between them and they both threw him into a ball pool.”
Hinds denies 22 counts of ill-treating a patient, Murphy denies 19 counts of the same charge, Barnard denies seven counts of the same charge and Burge denies three counts of the same charge.
Murphy also denies one count of wilfully neglecting a patient.
All the charges relate to the period between January 2005 to March 2007 when all the alleged victims were outpatients at the Solar Centre.
Miss Wright told the jury of five men and seven women that the patients at the Solar Centre exhibited a range of challenging behaviour and had severe problems.
She said: “They were vulnerable and not able to stand up to those who abused them.”
The prosecutor added: “Each of the four defendants was involved to a greater or lesser extent in the prolonged ill-treatment of a number of patients, including physical assaults, threats, improper handling and degrading treatment.”
Miss Wright said the four defendants formed a distinct group at the centre.
She told the jury: “The atmosphere created by the defendants at the centre, particularly James Hinds and Susan Murphy, was intimidatory.
“The group showed a harsh attitude toward other members of staff and, especially, to the service users they were supposed to care for.”
She said Hinds in particular was a “very dominant character who came across as a bully” and who talked about “sorting them out” in relation to the patients.
The prosecutor said other staff at the centre felt the four defendants ran the unit “as they wanted” and they felt unable to speak out.
But the police were called in after one member staff decided to leave in March 2007 and made formal allegations of the mistreatment of patients.
The trial continues.