Debora Nelson Simoes Nunes-Filho, aged 36 and of Mountbatten Gardens, Bournemouth, and Katie Clark, aged 43 and of Foxholes Road, Poole, appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court on Friday 27 November 2020 to be sentenced for an offence of assaulting, ill treating, neglecting, abandoning or exposing a child in their care in a manner likely to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury to health.
They were sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Nunes-Filho and Clark had been employed by a care agency to provide ‘wake in night care’ for an eight-year old boy from Dorset with a rare syndrome who required round-the-clock care from August 2018. This was part of a care package that allowed the boy’s mother to sleep at night.
The carers were not allowed to sleep during their shifts as the child required regular medical attention for pain relief, breathing difficulties and other issues and his care package stated he could not be left alone when he was awake.
The carers were allowed to monitor him remotely from the lounge via a CCTV system in the home to check that he had not woken up. His oxygen levels required constant monitoring through a SATS device attached to his toe.
When the child’s behaviour began to deteriorate in April 2019, the boy’s family decided to start recording them using the CCTV system in order to witness what led up to his outbursts.
One morning the boy’s mother came downstairs and found her son alone in the bedroom and Nunes-Filho in the kitchen.
A friend of the mother subsequently reviewed the CCTV footage and found that during a six-hour period that night Nunes-Filho was only in the room for 33 minutes while the boy was fully awake.
She could be seen sat on the sofa in the lounge watching television and at one stage appeared to be asleep.
Nunes-Filho was reminded at the start of the next shift that the boy was not meant to be left alone. On reviewing the footage of the next shift she did stay mainly in the boy’s room, but did not attach his SATS monitor while he slept. She fell asleep for roughly two hours and would have had no idea if the boy was in danger. She also filled in observation charts, which should not have been possible as the machine was turned off.
The friend continued to review the footage during subsequent night shifts and also found concerning footage in relation to Clark.
One night at around 1.30am the monitor attached to the boy’s toe was knocked off, causing an alarm to sound. The defendant entered the room and did not attempt to re-attach the monitor and just turned the alarm off. The monitor was not turned back on at all that night.
While the boy was asleep in his room with no monitor attached, Clark was seen sat in the lounge watching television and appeared to fall asleep for around 30 minutes.
The following night Clark fell asleep at around 4.45am while the boy had no monitor attached to his toe. He woke up at around 5.15am while Clark was still asleep and his feeding tube appeared stretched.
At around 5.40am Clark was seen to wake and head into the garden, it is believed she went for a cigarette, which she was not allowed to do on duty. While she was outside the boy was inside unsupervised.
On both nights Clark completed observation charts recording the boy’s SATS, which again should not have been possible when the monitor was turned off.
Concerns were raised with those providing the boy’s care and, following a multi-agency strategy meeting, police commenced a criminal investigation that led to both carers being charged in relation to the neglect.
Detective Constable Laura McQueen, of Dorset Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT), said: “These carers were fully aware of the boy’s complex medical needs and the risks that could be posed by failing to give him sufficient attention.
“Their actions fell well below the standard of care they were expected to provide. It is fortunate that there were not more serious consequences as a result of their neglect and it did not lead to a serious deterioration in his condition.
“I would like to thank the care company involved for their co-operation throughout this investigation and for all those involved in ensuring these defendants were held accountable for their actions.”