Sunday 17 December 2017
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Devon care home boss 'unaware of punishment rooms'

The boss of two care homes said he was unaware vulnerable residents were being locked in so-called punishment rooms.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Vielstone and Gatooma homes in Devon had a room where residents were left alone, often without food and water.

Paul Hewitt, 70, denies charges of conspiracy to detain and falsely imprison residents.

Mr Hewitt also said he was unaware that residents missed meals and he would have "made sure" they were fed.

The court heard that a woman resident said she had been tied up in the room at Gatooma in Holsworthy

Mr Hewitt, from Teignmouth, said he would not approve of this, telling the court: "Absolutely not. Mechanical restraint was a no no."

He also denied stopping residents making home visits as a punishment.

'Quality of life'

Mr Hewitt said he purchased Gatooma in 2004 for residents with behavioural issues.

"It was about giving them a better quality of life," he said.

"They had been in hospital or locked units. We wanted them to be free to be part of a community set up and be free to go to the shops or the pub."

Mr Hewitt, founder of Atlas Project Team Ltd, ran the two care homes for adults with learning disabilities.

He sold the business in 2006 but continued to be in charge, the court heard.

Mr Hewitt and employees Lee Farrant, 30, James Lawson, 41, Julie Barlow, 51, and Aaron Jones, 33, all from Devon, deny a series of charges against seven residents at Vielstone near Bideford and Gatooma in Holsworthy between 2010 and 2011.

Mr Lawson denies eight charges of false imprisonment, Mr Farrant six charges of false imprisonment and Mr Jones and Ms Barlow three charges each of false imprisonment.