A pair of Dundee care home bosses have been cleared of wilfully neglecting residents at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The families of Deborah Douglas and Angela Isles wept and applauded after they were found not guilty at the conclusion of a trial which started last year at Dundee Sheriff Court.
Prosecutors alleged several vulnerable residents had been mistreated at McGonagall House, a specialist unit at Rosebank Mews caring for people who have experienced alcohol or drug-related brain damage.
Isles, the home’s manager at the time and Douglas, the director of the company that previously operated the unit, had been accused of various charges of “ill-treating and neglecting” 13 residents between 2019 and 2021.
They both maintained their innocence throughout.
Sheriff Paul Brown said: “There are a number of doubts arising from the Crown evidence.
“I find you both to be credible and reliable.
“My verdict on all charges is one of not guilty.”
Distress over allegations
The court heard during the trial how Isles had been sitting by the bed of a man dying of Covid-19 when another resident walked into the room.
It was alleged Isles, 56, asked the resident: “How many more people do you want to kill in here?”.
This was after saying: “Are you not happy you’ve f****** given him Covid in the first place?”
When giving evidence, Isles said that members of staff who had reported her and Douglas to the authorities had added “arms and legs” to incidents.
A visibly emotional Isles said she had been left unable to work due to the allegations, telling defence counsel Jonathan Crowe: “I have never committed any crime in my life.
“I was taken to that police station and treated like a common criminal.
“I was sitting with my dying mother and three days after she died, I had to face two-and-a-half hours of grilling.
“I felt like I had wanted the ground to swallow me up.
“I am not working, I have anxiety, I take panic attacks, all because of this and I have done nothing wrong.”
‘Bad taste’ over allegations
Isles said she enjoyed positive relationships with many of the residents at McGonagall House and said she reacted to each resident differently due to their varying issues.
Fiscal depute Larissa Milligan asked Isles if accusations by staff of her shouting at residents could have been misinterpreted to which Isles responded: “I think it’s a malicious fabrication.”
In earlier evidence, staff nurse Fiona Nicholson said she had been a “whistle-blower” who had informed Dundee City Council’s social work department about alleged ill-treatment of residents by Isles and Douglas.
She said: “I thought ‘when is this going to stop?’ I felt it was not acceptable for there to be a toxic environment at the time.
“I felt I had no other option than to go to social work.”
Other non-criminal proceedings are ongoing against Isles and Douglas, both of Dundee, in relation to the allegations.
Mr Crowe said following the conclusion of evidence: “When Mrs Isles was sitting in a room of a man dying of Covid, she told another resident to get out.
“That’s been converted into a criminal allegation.
“That is a flavour that should leave a bad taste in the court’s mouth.”