Gardaí silent on claims five care workers face charges

Gardaí have said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on reports that five members of a Co Mayo care home are to be charged with assault following an investigation into care standards at the HSE-run facility.

A garda inquiry into behaviour of staff at Áras Attracta in Swinford began on foot of an RTÉ Prime Time programme last year which featured undercover footage of elderly residents being shouted at, physically restrained, slapped, and force-fed.

A total of 13 staff members were suspended following the programme, ‘Inside Bungalow 3’, and in addition to a garda investigation, the HSE and Hiqa, the health watchdog, launched their own investigations.

The garda investigation is understood to have involved a team of detectives who trawled through almost 200 hours of CCTV footage, as well as reviewing the RTÉ material.

Care staff and relatives of those living in the home, which caters for the intellectually disabled, were also conducted as part of the investigation.

A garda spokesman said a file had been sent to Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions earlier this year and it would be “inappropriate to comment” pending direction from the DPP.

However, RTÉ reported yesterday that gardaí have been directed to bring assault charges against five staff members and that the remaining eight who featured in the investigation will not face prosecution.

RTÉ also said that, on foot of the instructions from the DPP, gardaí are now seeking summonses to proceed to court hearings and that charges will be brought under Section 2 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act. Proceedings will be taken at the District Court in the coming months.

The maximum penalty for anyone convicted on these charges is a fine of up to €1,905, up to six months in jail, or both.

RTÉ said it is understood that one of the five people will face a number of charges, with the four others being being charged on one count each.

The HSE appointed a confidential informant to handle allegations of abuse at care homes following the RTÉ programme, which aired in December.

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