The company which runs a care home in Mansfield where a pensioner tumbled to his death down a flight of stairs has been fined £1.5 million.
Embrace All Ltd, which runs Rose Court Lodge on Sutton Road, admitted responsibility for the death of 76-year-old dementia sufferer George Chicken in 2012.
He had managed to evade staff, accessed a fire exit that was unlit and fell down 15 concrete steps.
The manager at the time, 50-year-old Amanda Dean, was also handed a suspended prison sentence during the hearing at Nottingham Crown Court today.
The company had pleaded guilty to failing to ensure residents were not exposed to risks to health and safety, while Dean of Ambergate, Derbyshire, pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care of persons affected by her work.
Both the company and Dean had initially denied any wrongdoing but changed their pleas just days into a three-week trial in July brought against them by Mansfield District Council.
The court was told how the care home had failed to reach adequate levels of safety to protect residents and previous incidents of dementia sufferers injuring themselves were highlighted. The fire door which Mr Chicken accessed was also found to be easily opened.
On the night of the tragedy, only three members of staff were on duty and none had been on the first floor where Mr Chicken, who had a habit of wandering because of his dementia, had been sleeping.
Sentencing them at Nottingham Crown Court, Judge Stuart Rafferty said Mr Chicken’s death was “wholly preventable”.
He added: “The company failed to put in measures recognised as standard in this industry, particularly a key pad to the fire door.
“I set the culpability of the company as high. Anyone who went on that staircase was at risk of falling and suffering injury or death. It was a wholly unsafe and dangerous fire exit.”
Referring to Amanda Dean, he added: “She is someone who has spent a lifetime in nursing and her care for patients is not in question in this case.
“She was out of her depth when it came to the management of the care home.”
Defending, Paul Wakerley said Dean was a mother of six who was “truly sorry” for the tragic accident.
He said: “She has spent her life putting the needs of others before her own. She had an unblemished record in her field, but that has gone.
“It’s entirely possible that the events of four years ago will be career ending.”
She was handed a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
She was also ordered to pay £20,000 in costs, while Embrace All Ltd were ordered to pay £200,000 in costs.
Mr Chicken, a former electrician at Welbeck Colliery who lived on Manby Court, Meden Vale, had been a resident in Rose Court Lodge in 2012.
His family had visited no fewer than 13 care homes beforehand to ensure he would have been looked after.
On the evening of November 4, 2012, Valerie Clowes, Mr Chicken’s daughter, received a call that evening saying her father had suffered a “little bit of a fall”, but in reality but had been rushed to hospital with serious head injuries, including bleeding to the brain.
He passed away two days later.
Speaking after the sentencing, Mrs Clowes, said: “For our family, nothing will make us feel we’ve had justice.
“We still have to live every day with the pain of this horrific death.
“We express our gratitude to Mansfield District Council and their legal team.
“Without them, this case would not have seen the inside of a courtroom or brought to the attention of the public.
“We would like to see the reevaluation of all care homes who advertise themselves as delivering dementia care.
“They need to meet the criteria of not only having the understanding of the complexities of dementia but their health and safety measures re-assessed to ensure the safeguarding of their vulnerable residents.
“If my dad’s death proves anything, they can no longer assume that accidents such as his may never happen.
“In my opinion, all scenarios, no matter how small the risk, should be addressed and dealt with immediately.
“A death should not be the reason to rectify a problem.”