Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Timeline of Solar Centre abuse case

Two former health workers have been found guilty of abusing disabled patients at a day care centre in South Yorkshire.

Susan Murphy and James Hinds mistreated severely disabled patients at the Solar Centre in Doncaster over a two-year period.

The convictions are the result of a six-year fight for justice by the victims' families, during which time the case was looked into and dismissed by the Crown Prosecution Service twice.

Here is a timeline of key events leading up to the guilty verdicts:

March 2007: Allegations made

Solar Centre
The allegations were originally made by a former staff member in March 2007

A Solar Centre staff member decides to leave and makes formal allegations to a manager of the mistreatment of patients.

Four members of staff are suspended by the Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (RDASH).

The patients' families are notified of concerns and South Yorkshire Police is informed.

8 March 2007: Police investigation begins

South Yorkshire Police begins its first investigation into the allegations and later passes its findings to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

December 2007: 'Insufficient evidence'

The CPS decides there will be no prosecutions, saying there is insufficient evidence to bring charges.

RDASH starts its own internal inquiry.

July 2010: Report leaked

The findings of the internal confidential RDASH report are leaked to the local press.

The report states allegations against workers have been proven and disciplinary action has been taken.

Police ask to see a copy of the report.

October 2010: Second police investigation

South Yorkshire Police announces it is reopening its investigation, saying it would review the original evidence and take further statements.

It submits its file to the CPS in January 2011.

12 September 2011: Families 'disappointed'

The CPS decides for the second time that no-one will face charges over the abuse claims.

Acting Det Ch Insp Natalie Shaw, who led the police inquiry, says the force "utilised all the information, legislation and powers we have available to build a strong case" but there was still insufficient evidence.

David Greenwood, a solicitor for some of the families involved, says his clients will be disappointed and he would do "everything that I can to persuade the CPS to change their minds".

An undisclosed amount of compensation is paid by RDASH to two former patients.

4 October 2011: Third review

Just over three weeks later the CPS said its complex casework unit would review its decision.

Martin Goldman, the chief crown prosecutor for Yorkshire, says following an initial assessment of the decisions it is "clear" that a full review of the case is needed.

The victims' families are informed.

15 August 2012: Charges authorised

Four people are to face charges relating to the mistreatment of patients at the Solar Centre, the CPS announces.

Hinds and Murphy are summonsed to court to be formally charged along with care assistant Julie Burge and physiotherapy assistant Michael Barnard.

18 April 2013: Trial starts

Sheffield Crown Court
The verdicts followed a four-week trial at Sheffield Crown Court

A jury at Sheffield Crown Court is told the four defendants mistreated 17 vulnerable adults in their care.

Many of those abused had a range of physical disabilities including blindness, the court hears.

The prosecution describes how some were slapped and punched, while others were yanked out of wheelchairs or thrown into ball pools.

17 May 2013: Guilty verdicts

Hinds was found guilty of 10 counts of ill-treatment and Murphy found guilty on 15 counts. Ms Burge and Mr Barnard were cleared of all charges.

The guilty pair are told they will be sentenced on 14 June.

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