Autistic woman was dragged along floor by care home manager, witness tells court

Autistic woman was dragged along floor by care home manager, witness tells court

By Adele Forrest | 24/11/2020

Autistic woman was dragged along floor by care home manager, witness tells court
Barbara Sykes arriving at Sheffield Crown Court


A CARE home manager who says she witnessed her predecessor assaulting an autistic woman told a court she was unable to tell the victim’s family about the abuse.

Lynsey Sutheren gave evidence yesterday (Monday) in the trial of former Reach Day Centre manager Barbara Sykes.

Sykes (64), of Church Street, Rawmarsh, is accused of neglecting ten clients, aged between 18 and 66, between 2008 and 2017.

Former assistant manager Julie Paul-Slack is also accused of ill-treatment of a person lacking mental capacity and wilful neglect of a person lacking mental capacity.

The service, based at the Elliott Centre on Badsley Moor Lane, is operated by Rotherham Council and provides therapeutic activities and care for adults with learning difficulties and behavioural issues.

Ms Sutheren agreed the defendants had initially been “fantastic” at work but the atmosphere had changed when the service became “too big, too quick” without training.

The alleged offending came to light when care worker Ms Sutheren contacted Rotherham Council’s then-head of service for adult care, Janine Moorcroft, on October 10, 2017.

Sykes is accused of dragging the woman — who we have chosen not to name — down the corridor by her leg between 2011 to 2013.

Ms Sutheren claimed Sykes pulled the woman off a dining room chair, causing her to fall onto the floor.

Under cross-examination, Mr Patrick Williamson, defending for Sykes, asked her what she had done after witnessing the alleged incident.

She said: “I moved around (her), I was trying to serve lunches and stepped back and walked towards the kitchen.”

Mr Williamson said: “Why didn’t you go and see how (she) was?”

Ms Sutheren replied: “It was best to leave (her).”

Mr Williamson responded: “What, after she’s been dragged off a chair?”

Ms Sutheren replied: “Well, Barbara was there”.

Ms Sutheren, who is now assistant manager of the service, said she had left the autistic woman because she had continued to “hit out”.

The witness claimed Sykes had briefly returned to her office before dragging the woman by the leg down the corridor and out of the fire exit.

In a police statement given on October 23, 2017, Ms Sutheren initially stated that Sykes pulling the woman off the chair and dragging her down the corridor had been two separate incidents. 

But under cross-examination, she admitted she had made an error and that they had happened at the same time.

Ms Sutheren claimed at least four members of staff had witnessed the incident, including Paul-Slack, (56), of Middle Lane, Clifton, who allegedly failed to take action.

“She (Paul-Slack) didn’t escalate it,” said Ms Sutheren.

Asked why she hadn’t tried to escalate the issue even further, Ms Sutheren said: “I failed (the woman) miserably and every day I live with that.

“But I am here now trying to do the right thing by her.”

Mr Williamson asked if she had tried to inform the service user’s mother about the abuse.

“I drove to her house and sat outside their house,” she said.

“I was going to tell the mum, I didn’t know how to tell her — how do you say to somebody that their daughter is being abused?”

Mr Williamson responded: “Well, you say, ‘Your daughter is being abused’, and they ask how.”

Ms Sutheren replied: “I did drive to their house, I didn’t know how to put it and what to tell them. I failed (her) miserably, I know I have.”

Mr Peter Hampton, defending for Paul-Slack, claimed due to the passage of time Ms Sutheren had wrongly claimed his client had witnessed the incident.

Ms Sutheren replied: “There has been time but I still remember that day.”

Mr Hampton asked if she had “dragged” his client into the situation because she had been concerned she would have supported Sykes.

The witness responded: “No”.

Defence barristers criticised the witness for failing to report the alleged incident at the time when she had been aware of Rotherham Council taking action in relation to other incidents.

The court heard Sykes was suspended in September 2013 over an incident involving a service user who had attacked her after she had taken a can of coke away from him. 

A month later, fellow care worker Simon Parkin was prosecuted for assaulting the same service user Sykes is accused of dragging along the floor, and in December 2013 Paul-Slack was also suspended.

The trial continues.


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