Douglas Stevens, 41, Anthony Thomas, 65, and David Widlick, who worked at Gower Lodge in Gowerton, Swansea, were involved in the abuse of vulnerable residents.
Photo: Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures)
Three home care workers have been jailed for their “despicable” treatment of vulnerable residents.
Swansea Crown Court heard Douglas Stevens, who was working at Gower Lodge in Gorton, Swansea, was abusive, made sexual comments towards women, and on one occasion dragged a woman off a sofa by her hair, kneeled on her stomach and hit her head on the floor.
He also used racial slurs towards a resident man and made barking sounds outside his room.
Stephens, 41, was sentenced along with Anthony Thomas and David Widlick for mistreatment of a person.
Widlick pleaded guilty, while Stevens and Thomas were convicted after a trial.
Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures)
The Swansea Crown Court heard that Gower Lodge, which was operated by a company called TracsCare that has now rebranded itself as Accomplish, was a residential home for adults with a range of learning disabilities, complex behavioral problems and mental health conditions who needed one’s care.
During the trial, it was acknowledged that population behavior can often be “difficult” and staff used a system called Studio III which emphasized population management through distraction and de-escalation techniques while using only physical intervention as a last resort.
The abuse, which occurred between 2015 and 2017, came to light when a former employee raised her concerns about what she saw and heard – they were initially investigated by the care company before alerting the police.
Thomas, 65, was also verbally abusive, and on one occasion dragged a woman from the home’s lobby area by the hair.
Dimitris Legakis/Athena Pictures)
Meanwhile, Widlick, who was a home-based Nuba leader, made “cruel” comments to a stricken resident who was threatening suicide, telling her at one point he was going to give her a “real rope”.
And when the victim accused him of not caring, he replied, “I don’t get paid for the care.”
The offense committed by the 38-year-old was recorded on a mobile phone by a colleague who later became a whistleblower.
Nicholas Powell, on behalf of Stevens, said that while the accused retains the position he held at trial, he respects the trial process.
She said the immediate confinement period would have a “tremendous” impact on his family members.
John Hepkin QC, on behalf of Thomas, said his client also maintained the position he held at trial but accepted the jury’s verdicts without complaint.
He said that at age 65, the accused’s working life was now over and that his conviction was a “fall from grace” for a man who was the “pillar” of his family.
James Hartson, for Widdlick, said the defendant described his behavior in speaking to the occupant in the way he treated him as “unacceptable, unjustified, and unprofessional.”
The lawyer added that the delay in referring the case to court was “excessive”.
Judge Geriant Walters told the defendants that the residents in their care at Gower Lodge were among the most vulnerable in the community, and the way they were treated was “abhorrent”.
He said that after hearing the evidence at the trial he concluded that there was a culture operating in the home at the time in which employees acted almost with impunity while others who were part of the “clique” virtually turned a blind eye.
The judge said the credit goes to the owners of the house that when the allegations surfaced, they conducted their own investigation – arresting seven staff members as part of that process – before handing the matter over to the police.
Douglas Stephens, of Rosedri, and Temple, Llanelli, was sentenced to 15 months in prison; Anthony John Thomas, of Briar Dean, Skeeti, Swansea, was also sentenced to 15 months in prison; David Michael Widlick, of Cecil Street, Manselton, Swansea, sentenced to 18 weeks in prison.
Defendants will spend up to half of those sentences in custody before being released under a license to serve the remainder of the community.
Judge Walters said the whistleblowers who came forward to give evidence about what was happening at Gower Lodge deserved praise for their courage, saying these people “give a voice to the voiceless.”