Devon care home boss 'designed prison regime', court told

Image caption The managing director and four staff at the Vielstone, above, in Bideford, and Gatooma, in Holsworthy are accused of a string of offences against seven residents

A care home boss designed a regime where disabled people were imprisoned in empty rooms if they behaved badly, a court heard.

Paul Hewitt, 70, is on trial over allegations of abuse at the Vielstone and Gatooma homes in Devon.

Bristol Crown Court heard that each home had a room where residents were left alone, often without food and water.

Mr Hewitt denies the charges.

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

He sold the business in 2006, but remained in charge, the court heard.

Mr Hewitt and four staff are accused of a string of offences against seven residents at the homes, Vielstone near Bideford and Gatooma in Holsworthy.

Mr Hewitt and employees Lee Farrant, 30, James Lawson, 41, Julie Barlow, 51, and Aaron Jones, 33, all from Devon, deny the charges between 2010 and 2011.

Andrew Langdon QC told the court that Hewitt had sold Atlas for £3m in 2006, and had deliberately tried to minimise his role since the investigation.

"He really had never ceased to take the lead," he said. "In common parlance he was the overall boss."

The court heard that Paul Hewitt, and three staff who have already pleaded guilty to charges, not only knew about the regime, they designed it.

Mr Langdon said: "You don't need me to tell you that this was an unsatisfactory way to treat people with learning disabilities."

Paul Hewitt, who's from Teignmouth, denies charges of conspiracy to detain and imprison falsely and failure to discharge a duty.

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.

The trial continues.

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