R v Heaney [2011] EWCA Crim 2682

The appellant had been convicted of two offences under MCA 2005 s44 and sentenced to consecutive 3- and 6-month sentences of imprisonment; on appeal, these were ordered to be served concurrently. The court took into account that 'neither of the victims in fact sustained any distress or injury and they were very short incidents', that the consequences for the appellant had been grave because she had lost her career, that she was a middle-aged woman with two young daughters, and that she was of previous good character.

Transcript

The transcript will remain below until it is published on Bailii.

Neutral Citation Number: [2011] EWCA Crim 2682


No: 201104404/D1


IN THE COURT OF APPEAL


CRIMINAL DIVISION



                                                         Royal Courts of Justice




                                                                          Strand




                                                                London, WC2A 2LL




                                                       Friday, 4th November 2011




                                  B e f o r e:




                                MR JUSTICE IRWIN




                           MRS JUSTICE THIRLWALL DBE














                                  R E G I N A




                                       v




                                  DAWN HEANEY














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Mr B Williams appeared on behalf of the Appellant








                                J U D G M E N T




                                 (As Approved)









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1.     MRS JUSTICE THIRLWALL:  The appellant, Dawn Heaney, is 38 years old.  On
8th July 2011 in the Crown Court at Leicester she was convicted, after a trial,
of two counts of ill treatment of a person who lacks mental capacity, contrary
to section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.  She was acquitted of two other
counts of ill treatment and no evidence was offered on a further similar count.


2.     0n 4th August 2011 the judge sentenced her to 9 months' imprisonment,
being 3 months' imprisonment in respect of count 3 and 6 months' imprisonment
consecutive in respect of count 4.  As a result of those convictions the
appellant is now prevented from working with vulnerable groups, in accordance
with the Schedule to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (Prescribed
Criteria and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations, the appellant will be
included in the relevant list by the independent safeguarding authority.  This
is her appeal against sentence, which she brings with the leave of the single
judge.


3.     The fact were these.  The appellant worked as a senior carer at Wymeswold
Care Home in Leicestershire.  She had worked as a carer for many years.  The
residents of the care home were elderly and vulnerable people.  One resident was
in his 80s, the other, a woman, was in her 90s when the offences occurred.  The
man had dementia and Alzheimer's disease; he was disorientated in time, place
and person.  He could become violent and agitated.  The staff knew this and had
been instructed to be particularly patient when dealing with him.


4.     One day in 2009, while the staff were serving afternoon drinks in the
lounge area of the home, the man complained that he did not have enough sugar in
his tea.  The appellant took the cup from him and put seven or eight spoonfuls
of sugar into his tea.  She then left the room and came back with a bottle of
vinegar.  She said: "We'll give him some of this as well."  She then poured a
quantity of the vinegar into the tea and watched the man drink it.  Other staff
looked on in horror.  That was count 3.


5.     Count 4 concerned the woman to whom I have already referred, another
vulnerable person.  She suffered from dementia and was described as very
confused and unable to indicate her needs.  It is difficult to think of anyone
more vulnerable.  One day, in the late summer of 2009, she was sitting in her
wheelchair in a corridor looking out of the window.  For no reason, the
appellant approached her from behind and slapped her across the back of the
head.  She did so quite openly.  Three people saw what she had done and one of
them asked her why she had done it.  She just laughed and walked on.  It is
apparent that she had no shame about such a gratuitous assault on a vulnerable
elderly person.


6.     The appellant denied the offences and was convicted by the jury.


7.     It is clear from all that we have read about her that she did not then,
and as Mr Williams very candidly has said, she does not now, accept she
committed these offences.  She is, of course, completely wrong about that.  We
hope that in due course she will have some insight into what she has done and
some remorse.


8.     Mr Williams, who has appeared on behalf of the appellant today, has put
his case both in writing and in oral argument with admirable clarity and focus,
and we have been considerably helped by him.  He does not seek to argue that a
sentence of imprisonment was wrong in principle, nor does he seek to argue that
the judge was wrong to refuse to suspend the sentence.  Very realistically his
focus has been on the length of the sentence.


9.     As the judge, who after all presided over this trial observed, the
gravamen of these offences were in the thoughtless and heartless unkindness
committed in serious breach of trust.  We agree.  Elderly people have a right to
be treated with respect by everyone in the community.  When they are ill and
living in residential homes, they are entitled to expect, and we must demand,
that they are properly cared for.  What this appellant did was the opposite of
that.


10.     However, we acknowledge that neither of the victims in fact sustained
any distress or injury and they were very short incidents.  The consequences for
the appellant have been grave:  she has lost her livelihood and has no realistic
prospect of being able to work in her chosen field again and, if we may say so,
rightly so.  She has two young daughters at home.  She is a woman in early
middle age.  The effect of a prison sentence upon someone like her, who was
until now of previous good character, should not be underestimated.


11.     Mr Williams submits that a total sentence of 6 months would have been
commensurate with the seriousness of the offending.  We agree.  We are not going
to interfere with the length of the individual sentences.  We consider, however,
that they ought to be served concurrently. Accordingly and to that extent, this
appeal is allowed.  The sentences of 3 months and 6 months in respect of count 3
and 4 remain but they are to be served concurrently.

External links

Possible Bailii link (not there when last checked, but it might have appeared since 0700 this morning!)

Leicester Mercury, 'Woman who abused patients has jail term cut' (5/11/11)