THE care of an autistic woman who was being treated at a private hospital in County Durham has been questioned by a judge.   The woman was being treated at Whorlton Hall, in Whorlton, near Barnard Castle, which is currently the subject of a police investigation into allegations of physical and psychological abuse.

She featured in a Panorama documentary, broadcast last month, about the hospital, when she was named as “Alex”.

Justice Hayden has questioned the way council social services bosses handled her care and raised concerns about a number of aspects of the woman's case.

He wants explanations from a senior manager at Staffordshire County Council, which has responsibility for her welfare.

He considered the woman's case at a public hearing in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who might lack the mental capacity to make decisions are considered, in London and raised concern in a ruling.

Social services bosses at Staffordshire council have asked him to make decisions relating to her mental capacity.

Police are investigating following allegations that patients at Whorlton Hall, an NHS-funded privately run hospital, were abused and a number of arrests have been made.

The 17-bed facility, where the woman had been placed, has been closed.

Bosses at Cygnet, the company which ran Whorlton Hall, have said they are "shocked and deeply saddened" and are working with police.

"The entire history of the last 18 months reveals a very vulnerable young woman," said Mr Justice Hayden in his ruling.

"The state has made decisions which have not only been ineffective in assisting her but has sometimes, despite its best intentions, acted in a way which was harmful to her."

Mr Justice Hayden was told that the woman was now living at a different facility.

The judge, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, is due to reconsider her case at another Court of Protection hearing in the near future.

He said the woman, who was named as "Alex" in the Panorama programme, could not be fully identified in media reports of the case.

But he said Staffordshire County Council could be named.