Worthing care home worker jailed after abusing man with Down's syndrome

A Worthing care home worker, who slapped and dragged a man with Down's syndrome she was supposed to be looking after, has been jailed.

Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 2:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th October 2021, 3:07 pm

Czech carer Sona Mertova, 47, was arrested and charged following an allegation of ill-treatment at Sutton Court care home in Chesswood Road, Worthing on June 20. The care home has since been rated as 'inadequate' following an inspection on June 28.

The victim, Peter Lucas, was so upset by his treatment he banged his own head against a metal railing five times before being dragged back inside, Lewes Crown Court heard, on Wednesday (October 19).

Mertova was a team leader at the care home in Worthing where Mr Lucas, 36, had moved to after the death of his mother Mary.

Czech carer Sona Mertova, 47, broke down as she was jailed for six months.

Peter was described in court as a vulnerable adult with Down's syndrome.

In an emotional personal statement, his father John Lucas said the family were devastated by the loss of his wife and tormented by guilt at not being able to look after Peter at home.

Mr Lucas said the incident was 'another devastating blow' to the family.

He wrote: "Peter has difficulty understanding people and would not have been able to understand the carer if, as has been shown, her English is poor.

Mertova will spend half of her sentence in prison before being released on a one-year licence.

"As a family we agreed to move Peter to Sutton Court to benefit from the care and kindness we were told would be shown.

"Tragically, this has not happened. Instead, he has had to suffer further.

"My wife's dying wish was to have Peter in a secure, happy and safe environment and this has broken our hearts.

"If my wife was still alive she would be devastated."

Prosecutor Charles Drinnan told the court that the victim was sitting on a swing chair in the garden at the time of the incident.

He said the defendant approached Peter 'very aggressively' and, with her right hand, slapped him in the head.

Mr Drinnan added: "The defendant grabs his left arm and aggressively removes him from the bench with such force that the bench falls onto both the defendant and the victim.

"This doesn't deter the defendant, who throws back the bench, pushes the victim with both hands when he has his face in his palms and continues to advance towards him aggressively, pushing him hard enough for him to move back a couple of steps.

"She continually, grabs, pushes and drags him forwards to the point where the defendant grabs the victims face to try and pull him off.

"Then, for the second time the Crown say, with an open palm, slaps him to the right side of his face.

"Then, one final shove into the premises."

The court heard that the incident was captured on video by a neighbour, Daniel Bolton. He told police he turned on his camera after hearing the defendant shouting really loudly at the victim who was screaming.

Judge Mark van der Zwart told Mertova that she 'had the chance to calm down and comfort him' or 'at least leave him be'.

He added: "It's clear he was distressed at what you were doing to him but you were determined to manhandle him back into the home and you did that by pushing him up a ramp when he was again gripping a railing to show his reluctance.

"Common sense and decency suggests there were other ways of managing this situation.

"You behaved towards him with aggression and a complete lack of compassion, dignity and respect.

"This was a relatively sustained incident. It was not a momentary loss of control.

"Those who breach that trust with acts of aggression and violence must expect immediate prison sentences."

David Bathurst, representing Mrs Mertova, said she bitterly regrets what she did after working long hours in the care home.

"This was an appalling incident," Mr Bathurst said.

"Her concern was to stop that shouting and banging before the victim harmed himself.

"Her goal was to take him inside out of harm's way.

"She accepts she used far more force than was necessary or appropriate.

"Her judgement was clouded by the long shifts she was working.

"It is tragic that one moment of madness has such devastating consequences."

The judge told Mertova, through an interpreter, she had broken the trust placed in her by the Lucas family, her employers and the wider society.

Mertova, who pleaded guilty to ill-treatment by a care worker at an earlier hearing, broke down as she was jailed for six months.

She will spend half of her sentence in prison before being released on a one-year licence.

When approached by this newspaper, Sutton Court care home said it would release a statement in due course.