THESE are the names of the nine people who will appear in court accused of abusing patients with learning difficulties at a specialist hospital in County Durham.

Six men and three women have been summoned to appeart in court to face charges relating to alleged physical and psychological abuse of patients at Whorlton Hall, near Barnard Castle, where they all worked.

The accused are:

• John Sanderson, 24, from Willington

• Darren Lawton, 46, from Darlington

• Niall Mellor, 24, from Bishop Auckland

• Sara Banner, 31, from Newton Aycliffe

• Matthew Banner, 41, from Newton Aycliffe

• Ryan Fuller, 26, from Startforth

• Sabah Mahmood, 26, from Kelloe

• Peter Bennett, 52, from Darlington

• Karen McGee, 53, from Darlington

Each of the accused will face a charge, or multiple charges, of Ill Treatment or Wilful Neglect of an Individual by a Care Worker under Section 20 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

All nine are scheduled to appear before Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on November 9.

The independently-run learning disability/autism hospital Whorlton Hall, which specialised in care for vulnerable patients, closed following a Panorama documentary about the alleged abuse in 2019.

A lengthy police investigation followed, under the codename Operation Sarto, which resulted in these nine people facing criminal proceedings.

Following the scandal, the care services watchdog Care Quality Commission came under fire for failing to act on concerns of its own members, who had raised concerns about practices at the facility four years earlier, and a 2017 inspection which rated it as good.

It has since held numerous reviews and said lessons have, and continue to be learnt.


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