Solar Centre accused will finally face court


Four former staff members are to be charged with ill-treating people with learning difficulties at an NHS day centre – more than five years after the alleged abuse took place – thanks to a two-year Disability News Service (DNS) campaign.

The three former care assistants and a physiotherapist will appear in court to be charged with a total of 38 offences of ill-treatment and neglect of 18 men and women with learning difficulties and high support needs at the Solar Centre a day centre in the grounds of St Catherine’s Hospital, Doncaster.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to review the case for the third time last autumn after being approached by DNS.

Care workers James Hinds, Susan Murphy, Julie Burge and physiotherapist Michael Barnard will now all be charged with offences under the Mental Health Act. Hinds faces 14 charges, Murphy 13, Burge three and Barnard eight.

Relatives of the 18 former service-users told DNS they were relieved that the allegations would finally be tested in court.

Adrian Milnes, whose step-son Richie Rowe was one of the disabled men allegedly abused at the day centre, welcomed the announcement by the CPS, and thanked DNS for pushing for the case to be re-examined.

He said his family had been in a “war of attrition” over the last five years in trying to persuade the police and CPS to ensure the allegations were tested in court.

He said: “Our disappointment that it has taken five years to come to this is only exceeded by our elation that we are finally there. The fact that there are 38 charges speaks volumes about the extent of the allegations.”

Wendy Magill, whose sister Maxine Hughes was another of the alleged victims, said she was “overjoyed” that the allegations would be aired in court.

She said: “It has been a long time. It was March 2007 when we were first notified of the allegations.”

She said the process of dealing with the authorities over the past five years had been “totally soul-destroying”.

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat care services minister, and Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, both asked to be kept informed of progress on the case by civil servants after being contacted last autumn by DNS.

Hinds and Murphy are due to appear at Doncaster Magistrates Court on 31 August, while Burge and Barnard will appear at the same court on 14 September.

16 August 2012

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