Two ‘cruel’ care workers have been spared jail after they were secretly filmed abusing an elderly, blind dementia victim.
Pedro Dias, 21, and Piotre Ciecielowski, 26, verbally abused the 95-year-old wheelchair user as they got her ready for bed at the Macclesfield-based Prestbury House Care Home, a court heard.
During the disturbing incident the men ‘forcibly and unceremoniously’ dumped the victim onto her bed to clean her, the hearing was told.
When she started to complain Dias threatened to ‘break every bone’ in her body, ‘kill’ her and drag her by the head to her bed, prosecutors said.
The Portuguese national also physically abused her, slapping her across the face causing her to yelp in pain and calling her a ‘dipstick’.
Ciecielowski, a Polish national, failed to stop Dias or report his behaviour and branded the victim a ‘silly bitch’.
The incident was captured on secret CCTV cameras installed by the victim’s daughter after she became concerned about her mother’s unexplained injuries. In the footage from March 31 the distressed victim is heard repeatedly crying and pleading to God for help.
Dias then accuses the victim of trying to bite and scratch him before saying: “God thinks you are a bitch.”
At Chester Crown Court, Ciecielowski, of Brown Street, Macclesfield, and Dias, of Rodney Street, Macclesfield, admitted ill-treatment while working as a care worker.
They were sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 250 hours unpaid work.
They must both pay the victim £250 compensation.
Sentencing, Judge Simon Berkson said the defendants’ behaviour had ‘degraded’ the victim and was ‘cruel and anything but caring’.
He said: “She was verbally abused by both of you. She was slapped in the face by you Dias.
“Ciecielowski you did not stop it, report it and appeared unconcerned.
“She was clearly distressed and crying.
“She should have been cared for not ill-treated.
“Her daughter should have been happy someone was caring for her, not suspicious.
“She was a challenging patient.
"Matters have been raised about the care home but this is no excuse for your behaviour.
“You will no longer be able to work in the care industry and rightly so.”
The incident prompted an unannounced inspection by government watchdogs the Care Quality Commission which has downgraded the rating of the care home on West Park Drive to ‘inadequate’, the court heard.
Problems with staffing, training and management at Prestbury Care Home contributed to Dias and Ciecielowski’s offending, the court was told.
Both men claimed their initial training consisted of watching a series of DVDs then answering questions which they never got any feedback on.
Dias said after a year of working at the care home he was moved to deal with residents with ‘challenging behaviour’.
But the 21-year-old said he felt ‘out of his depth’ and wrote to managers to say he was not coping.
Terry Sharpe, defending Dias, said: “He was given another DVD to watch. He also claims he was being bullied.
“There was a gradual build up to the incident and on the night in question he and his co-defendant had to put 23 residents, including nine in the ‘challenging behaviour’ ward, to bed on their own. It was too much.
“When Mr Dias saw that footage he described himself as a monster. That position remains.”
Julian Farley, defending Ciecielowski said he was ‘appalled’ by the footage and apologises to the victim and her family.
Following the case, a spokesperson for the home said: “We were shocked and appalled by the actions of these individuals, whose behaviour went against everything we stand for as an organisation.
“We have fully supported the police investigation and the successful prosecution of the two offenders, who we are pleased will now be prevented from working in a care setting again.
“We are disappointed the recent CQC report was used by the defence – this was a wholly unacceptable act by two rogue individuals that is not representative of the professional, caring and dedicated staff who work at the home.
“We are challenging the outcome of the CQC report, and strongly refute both its findings, and the related claims made by the offenders.
“We have apologised unreservedly to the affected family, who continue to support the home, the actions we have taken, and the overall standard of care we provide.
“The safety, health and wellbeing of the residents we care for is always at the forefront of everything we do, and we take a zero-tolerance approach to any behaviour which falls below the very highest standards of care.”
The daughter of the elderly victim of the care home workers told the Express she cried out in horror when she first saw the footage recorded on the secret camera.
After the sentencing hearing, the woman - who the Express has decided not to name - said she had installed a covert camera in her mother’s room when she became concerned about unexplained injuries.
She said: “I was worried mum wasn’t getting the right care. She had bruises on her wrists and I didn’t feel my concerns were being listened to.
“When I looked at the footage I wasn’t expecting to see that. I cried out in horror. I had to stop watching. I couldn’t bear it.”
She said she is outraged that Dias and Ciecielowski were not jailed. She said: “What does that sentence say about how we care for the elderly in our society, when two large men can treat a 95-year-old blind woman like that, but can walk free from court? She was walloped out of nowhere and wouldn’t have seen it coming. It breaks my heart.”
The victim’s daughter said she still has faith in Prestbury House Care Home. She said: “There are some lovely, genuine carers at the home and it is a crying shame for them that two bad apples could ruin their reputation.”
The care home at the centre of the abuse hearing has been placed in special measures after receiving an overall rating of ‘inadequate’.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an inspection of Prestbury House Care Home in April, May and June, following the police investigation into Dias and Ciecielowski.
The home was rated inadequate for safety, leadership, effectiveness and responsiveness and ‘requires improvement’ for how caring the service it provides is.
Inspectors found the service was ‘not always safe’ with ‘no challenging behaviour care plans’ for some residents, and some staff were ‘not competent to know when to report safeguarding concerns’.
The CQC also found ‘staffing levels were not sufficient’ to meet care needs, and ‘medication management was not always safe with some people not receiving their prescribed creams and food supplements’.
They said staff didn’t always have the necessary training in dementia care and ‘care delivery was not always seen to be compassionate with inappropriate use of language used within care documentation’.
The CQC said training for staff was not effective and it was ‘delivered in a compressed way, with staff watching up to nine different training DVDs in the same day’.
Inspectors also found a serious complaint/allegation from April ‘had no investigatory records to confirm what actions had been completed as part of the investigation and also no response to the complainant’.
The care home has the capacity to look after 75 people.
A spokesperson for Porthaven Care Homes Group, which owns the home, said a previous inspection in October 2016 found the service was ‘good’ in all areas.
He added: “Each day we strive to provide the very best care and support, and put the safety, health and wellbeing of residents at the forefront of everything we do.
“The CQC has a very important and valuable role to play, but we do not agree with the findings of this report. Therefore we have formally challenged its accuracy and ratings.
“The standard of care and support we provide is recognised by the local authority in its quality assessments as very high, and we receive consistently positive feedback from residents and their families, 94 per cent of whom have said they would recommend us to a friend in the last 12 months.
“Indeed, the CQC itself has very positively assessed the standard practices used at Prestbury House in multiple previous inspections, where we have a consistent track record of being rated ‘Good’ in all areas.
“We are proud of the high standards of care we provide, and believe this report in no way reflects the quality of life at the home, which family members have rated as 9.6 out of 10 on the independent comparison website, carehome.co.uk.
“We look forward to welcoming the CQC back to demonstrate to them the high-quality, compassionate and responsive care service we have always provided.”