West Sussex care worker sentenced for ill-treatment of residents at care centre

A care worker has been sentenced after admitting the ill-treatment and wilful neglect of two vulnerable residents at a West Sussex care centre, following an investigation by Sussex Police safeguarding detectives.

Wayne Dennis Watkins, 70, of Vinnetrow Road, Runcton, near Chichester, was sentenced at Hove Crown Court on Monday 21 February, having pleaded guilty the previous month to ill-treating the two male residents at the since-closed Horncastle Care Centre in Plawhatch Lane, Sharpthorne, contrary to Section 20(1) of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

Two of the counts related to one of the residents and one of them to the other resident.

Pleas by Watkins of not guilty to three further counts alleging ill-treatment of the first resident were accepted by the court.

He was given an 18-month sentence, suspended for two years, and is required to undertake 25 days of rehabilitation activity.

Officers from the Sussex Police Complex Abuse Unit investigated allegations received in 2019 of physical mistreatment and lack of safeguarding of 12 residents at the since-closed Centre which was owned and operated by Sussex Health Care. A file of evidence was submitted to the CPS in the following year, and prosecution of Watkins was authorised.

The Centre accommodated up to 20 residents with a wide range of major learning and physical disabilities.

Three other people who were care workers at the centre, two women and a man, were also interviewed under caution during the police investigation, on suspicion of ill-treatment of 10 other residents, but the CPS advised that there was insufficient evidence to justify their prosecution.

Police kept families of residents informed and have liaised with both West Sussex County Council and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) throughout the investigation.

Detective Constable Rebecca Wilde of the Sussex Police Complex Abuse Unit said; "Our investigation started when we received via the CQC allegations from a former employee at the Centre. This involved complex enquiries, and interviews with staff and former staff, over many months.

"The court heard that Watkins was systematically mistreating the two residents while administering care and medical attention.

"This is another example of the way which we will work, with other agencies, to follow up alleged mistreatment of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities."

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