A CARE WORKER was branded a “sadistic bully” as he was put behind bars for assaulting two vulnerable patients with disabilities.

Sean McNulty from Darlington worked at the town's Newbus Grange Hospital for 14 years before he was caught on camera punching and kicking a man with Down syndrome and assaulting another with autism and complex needs.

The 36-year-old was reported to police after colleagues raised concerns over his use of excessive force to the hospital’s manager who went on to discover a “catalogue of abuse” recorded on CCTV.

Teesside Crown Court heard over four weeks McNulty punched and kicked one patient 19 times and assaulted a second man twice. In a single day he was seen to attack one of his victims five times and on one occasion punched him seven times in short succession.

McNulty claimed he suffered from memory loss and has no recollection of the attacks which he said “repulsed” him. But Judge Peter Armstrong refused to believe his excuse and called him a “sadistic bully” as he handed him two years and eight months in prison.

Addressing the care worker, who sobbed throughout the hearing, Judge Armstrong said: “There were two vulnerable persons who were in the care of the hospital and spent a great deal of time in your personal care. Instead you carried out the assaults that can only be described as appalling.

“You were caught on CCTV abusing those two patients in a systematic and sadistic way. You were acting as a sadistic bully, a big man. I have no doubt you were a frightening figure to them over the years.

“I am prepared to accept you have had great difficulties with patients and you have yourself been subjected to assaults but that is the nature of your profession. There were a couple of occasions one of the victims struck you, no doubt due to his condition, and you just snapped.

“There a number of occasions, you don’t just slap, there a full blows and forceful punches. It was a catalogue of abuse which out of good fortune did not result in serious injuries.

“Anyone watching that CCTV will have been nothing but horrified at the treatment you showed one of the victims. You say you do not remember any of this, I find this difficult to accept. The assaults were prolonged, sustained and used serious force. It was a deliberate disregard for the welfare of those vulnerable patients.”

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said McNulty was caught only after his colleagues reported concerns of his behaviour to the hospital’s manager who was left in “absolute shock” after discovering the assaults were recorded on CCTV.

But Mr Hadfield added footage is swiped after 30 days but over the four week period McNulty assaulted one of his victims 19 times and a second man twice.

Quoting one of the victim’s cousins, he said: “My cousin can’t voice his concerns or issues, he relies on others to look after him. My trust is broken and I feel let down. I would expect staff to put my cousin’s needs first and didn’t expect anyone to take advantage of his needs. It shocked me when I found out because I thought he was in a safe environment.”

Duncan McReddie, defending, said McNulty struggled with mental health challenges following the death of his wife and he claimed he couldn’t remember the assaults - but was “repulsed” when he was confronted with the footage of him assaulting the two men.

He said: “The assaults recorded by the CCTV are absolutely astonishing and nothing I say is intended to trivialise or minimise the nature of the offending.

“He had previously reported to his GP before any of this happened that he was having difficulties with depression, leading to a shortened temper. He is a man of good character that has been lost because of these convictions. He is repulsed by his own actions. When confronted with the incident he has shown a proper degree of remorse.”

Sean McNulty of Finchale Crescent, Darlington, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison. He pleaded guilty to two counts of ill treatment or willing neglect towards someone whilst a care worker.