A 'REMORSELESS' convicted killer who abused vulnerable patients after she was employed as a health care assistant has avoided jail.

Alison Richardson – jailed for manslaughter after stabbing her boyfriend to death in 1993 – was yesterday (Thursday, February 27) handed a suspended sentence after being caught on CCTV abusing a patient at The Priory hospital in Middleton St George, near Darlington.

The 46-year-old, who fully disclosed her conviction to her employers, jammed a bin onto a female patient’s head following a “tussle” and later put her hands around the same patient's throat in a “throttling position”, shaking her and poking her in the ribs.

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Other patients and members of staff were present during both assaults.

Detective Constable Fiona Laws said: “She denied everything in formal interviews, never showed any remorse and never admitted any wrong-doing.

“She was in a position of trust at the hospital, working alongside other members of staff caring for vulnerable patients.

“The assaults represented a loss of control and abuse of that trust.”

Graham Hunsley, mitigating, described Richardson’s actions as horseplay gone too far, saying they reflected a lack of training at the private hospital.

He asked District Judge Andrew Meachin to show leniency on the basis that the assaults were without malice.

Judge Meachin, sentencing Richardson at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court, repeatedly expressed astonishment that somebody with Richardson’s background was allowed to work with vulnerable people and questioned whether the hospital had been investigated as a result.

Describing the situation as "disturbing", he said: “This young lady has a certain conviction and has ended up in a position of carer, working one to one with a group of teenagers with certain difficulties.

“She went too far and was given certain leeway in doing so. The incidents were a serious breach of trust and she was in a position she shouldn’t have been in.”

Richardson, who now lives in Hull, previously admitted two counts of assault by beating. Five other charges were dropped.

Sentencing her to four months imprisonment for each offence, suspended for 12-months, the judge said: ”You came to believe you could act in a certain way with these people.

“The term play fighting has been used and that is unbelievable, you went far too far and there was an element of humiliation.”

Following the events, the hospital was warned by the Care Quality Commission for putting patients at “significant risk” by failing to conduct risk assessments relating to the suitability of employees to work with vulnerable people.

A spokeswoman from The Priory said the decision to employ Richardson was taken by previous owners Affinity Healthcare and said action had been taken following the events, which took place in 2012.

She said: “Individuals working at the hospital at the time did not follow company policies and procedures.

"This has been dealt with, and under the new senior management at the hospital a robust review has been undertaken.”