Jan Tregelles MencapSeven people have been charged with conspiracy to falsely imprison and conspiracy to ill-treat vulnerable adults residing in their homes.

The charges, brought by Devon and Cornwall Police, are part of Operation Baddeck, an investigation into the ill treatment of vulnerable adults.

They relate to allegations surrounding the treatment of 11 residents with learning disabilities at three care homes run by Atlas Project Team Ltd – Veilstone, Gatooma and Teignmead – in North and South Devon between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011. 

Those charged are: Paul Hewitt (aged 68), Russell Hewitt (40), Emma Turner (27) – all from Teignmouth. In addition, Victoria Cobbett (25) and Timothy Stevens (43), both from Bideford and Rachel Marshall (nee Carter) (29) and Jolyon Marshall (39), both from South Moulton have all been charged.

All are bailed to appear at Exeter Magistrates Court on October 28.  

The 7 were first arrested in October 2013. At the time, Alison Millar a specialist lawyer in abuse claims from law firm Leigh Day, said: “The allegations we have heard make us believe this could be one of the worst incidents of abuse towards vulnerable adults in residential care and, moreover, that the abuse at Winterbourne View… was not just an isolated occurrence but a symptom of a more systematic problem in the care sector.”

The care homes were all closed in 2012.

In a statement, Devon and Cornwall Police said that a multi-agency team is working to support the victims and their families to ensure they receive the appropriate levels support leading up to and throughout any future judicial proceedings. This support involves Devon County Council, NHS Devon, Devon Partnership Trust, Devon and Cornwall Police, the Care Quality Commission and other Local Authorities and NHS services. 

Additionally, the Police have been working with a number of agencies in Devon including Adult Social Care Services and the Local Safeguarding Adults Board to prevent, and where appropriate to thoroughly investigate, reported incidents of this nature. The priority in all of these cases is to ensure that those involved are effectively safeguarded.

Shocking allegations

In a joint statement, Jan Tregelles (pictured), chief executive of Mencap and Vivien Cooper, chief executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said they were “deeply concerned” at the “shocking allegations” of abuse. 

“The public were shocked by the scandal at Winterbourne View when it was broadcast on television and it is horrifying to hear that – at the very same time – an abuse scandal of a similar magnitude may have also been happening,” they said.

“As staff face charges for their alleged involvement, questions must be asked about the role of commissioners, the care regulator [Care Quality Commission], and senior Atlas staff. We must send a clear message that abuse and neglect will not be tolerated in our society and that all those involved – from frontline staff to the board room – will be held to account.”