Carer admits ill-treatment of vulnerable residents at Berwick care home

A trusted carer who was cruel to vulnerable residents she was meant to look after has kept her freedom.

By Karon Kelly
Monday, 28th March 2022, 5:26 pm
Garden House Care Home in Spittal.

Sheila Gault was a team leader at Garden House retirement home in Berwick where she worked with people who suffered from dementia.

Her sickening treatment of three of them was reported to the police after a new colleague said she was left in a "state of shock" by what she saw.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Gault had called a retired surgeon "disgusting and stinking of s***", shouted and screamed at him and refused to put a crash matnear the 79-year-old's bed, which meant when he fell out he landed face down on the floor with nothing to break his fall.

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Another resident, who was 78-year-old and had impaired vision, was shouted at for being too slow.

And a retired teacher, who was 63 and had lost her ability to communicate due to dementia, was dragged up by the hands.

Gault, 63, of Newfields, Berwick, admitted three charges of ill treatment of a person in care.

Prosecutor Anne Richardson told the court the offences took place in 2018, when Gault had worked at the home for seven years and was on permanent nightshift.

Miss Richardson said the resident who was a former surgeon, who has since died, slept a lot due to his condition and could be very resistant to care.

In September 2018 a colleague who had worked at the home for just days saw Gault "shouting and screaming" at him.

Miss Richardson said: "She witnessed the defendant shouting and screaming at him, also being very rough in her handling of him, and refusing to clean him properly as he was being “difficult”.

"She witnessed further unacceptable behaviour with regard to him by the defendant the next morning when she overheard the defendant say to someone else that he was disgusting and stinking of s***."

The court heard in October 2018 the same colleague was working with Gault again and they were putting the same man to bed.

Miss Richardson said: "As a result of his dementia it was necessary to put a crash mat underneath the sensory mat near his bed, as he has a tendency to fall out of bed.

"Sheila Gault refused to place the crash mat near the bed, stating that he was a pervert and asking why he should have a mat just because he was a doctor.

"In the result, at 4.20am he fell out of bed and landed on the floor face down.

"Although his injuries were not great, this must have been a painful and confusing episode for him."

In November 2018 Gault and the same colleague had gone into a 78-year-old resident's bedroom at 5am.

Miss Richardson said: "She was fast asleep, however she was taken from the bed and told her she had to have a bath as she was stinking and that her hair was disgusting, and when she made her way out of the room using her walker, she tripped due to an obstacle placed in her way and was shouted at for being too slow.

"She then had a bath, but the defendant handled her in an extremely rough manner, being rushed and aggressive, which caused her to become upset."

In September 2018 the same colleague and Gault were tending to the 63-year-old former teacher's personal care.

Miss Richardson said: "Sadly, due to her dementia she has completely lost the ability to communicate in any way.

"When they went into her bedroom, she was fast asleep.

"The defendant spun her round by her legs and dragged her up by the hands, causing strain on her wrists and shoulders."

Miss Richardson said the colleague reported Gault as she "was in a state of shock at the way in which the defendant treated those in her care".

In a victim statement, a son of the late surgeon said he felt "horror, disgust and rage" at the treatment his father and others received by Gault, who he branded a "bully".

He said: "This person treated my father and other residents with complete callousness, utter contempt and nothing short of brutality."

Paul Caulfield, defending, said Gault had worked as a carer for 20 years without incident and at the time of the offences her husband was terminally ill in hospital.

Mr Caulfield said after working during the night, Gault would travel from Berwick to Newcastle to be with him during the day.

He added: "She acknowledges she will never work in the care industry again."

Miss Recorder Caroline Goodwin QC sentenced Gault to a 12 month community order with rehabilitation requirements.

The judge told Gault her colleague had been "utterly flabbergasted by your cold and hard approach and how you treated them not like people but like objects".

But the judge added Gault had been "stretched too thin" by working during the night and travelling to see her husband during the day.

The court heard Gault has no previous convictions.