A carer found guilty of neglect after being caught sleeping on the job will serve 12 months in prison and then be deported to Ghana.
Henrietta Offae, 42, was found guilty of 19 counts of ill treatment or neglect of a person who lacks capacity following a re-trial at Amersham Crown Court.
She was caught by a manager neglecting 19 vulnerable adults at an Olney care home and has been sentenced to 14 months for the 19 neglect offences and six months for possessing a false passport.
The judge ruled the total sentence would be 18 months, taking one month off each sentence, but Offae will be automatically deported to Ghana after 12 months.
Judge Francis Sheridan said: “Having cheated her way into employment, she cheated her way through employment.”
He told Offae: “Your conduct was a disgrace. It was cruel, it was unacceptable.”
Through a first trial and then a retrial, the Ghanaian-born defendant maintained that she had not been asleep in the way her bosses – the home’s manager Salina Ballard and team leader Barbara May – had maintained.
The care worker claimed she had just been “resting her eyes”, despite the managers taking turns to watch her for some time while the other checked on residents. Jurors rejected her lies and the judge said that events in the early morning of August 18, 2011, were not a one-off but showed the “modus operandi” which Offae had used on a number of occasions.
Other staff members from Westlands care home told how shift-worker Offae put two pads on residents on another occasion to reduce the need to change them. She told a colleague it was what she had done in a previous job.
Investigators also found alarmed fall mats beside the beds had been disconnected but made to look intact.
Other measures had been taken to reduce the need to check on or deal with the 19 residents – who were aged between 75 and 100 and suffering from health problems including dementia and incontinence.
Judge Sheridan presided over Offae’s trial. Prosecutor Christopher Amis then told him of the passport fraud, in which Offae had admitted a charge of possessing false identity documents.
He said: “The defendant was employed by Heritage Care company at Swan House on April 22, 2010, after she had submitted an application in the name of Mabel Mensah.
“She had provided a genuine Belgian passport in that name and had provided a Lloyds Bank printout in that name, an NHS card in that name and an energy bill in that name.
“The court knows she’s an illegal immigrant but Swan House did a criminal records bureau check on that name and that showed no entries.”
He said after the investigation into her activities at Westlands had begun, police visited Swan House, in Winslow, to probe the circumstances of her work there and inform staff that she was not who she had claimed to be.
Steven Gray, defending, said in mitigation that his client had left Ghana for a better life in the UK in 2001 after years of struggling to cope following the murders of her shopkeeper parents in an armed robbery in the mid 1990s.
She met a Ghanaian man with whom she has had two children – both born in the UK – and with whom she was still living before being jailed. He has also applied for indefinite leave to remain in Britain and is waiting for a response.
“It was really through a desire to get work and support the young family that she made the foolish decision to do so with a passport that was not her own,” said Mr Gray.
“It was given to her by someone in the community to help her survive.”
He said the passport with which she entered Britain was seized by the border authorities, although he could not say what passport that was.
Of her neglect of the residents, Mr Gray added: “This is indicative of laziness and tiredness, rather than a wish to be physically cruel to residents. That’s a very great distinction.
“It is a case about a failure to act, a failure to provide care which ought to be provided.”
Responding to pleas for leniency for the sake of the children, Judge Sheridan told Mr Gray: “I don’t sentence the children. She does, by her actions.
“The fact that you have got children does not mean the judge should not do justice to the victims.”
He told Offae: “You were their protector on that night shift and you were nothing like their protector. You were lazy. You were a cheat. Your criminality was consistent and sustained neglect.
“The sentence is one of imprisonment. It must be, to deter others who want to cheat their employers and cheat on residents to ensure a quiet night.
“The elderly must have protection and the court must make it clear. If you are charged to look after them and you don’t you will face imprisonment.”
The judge said he believed Offae should be barred from ever working with the elderly in a care home or hospital again.
Chris Ryan, general manager of St Andrews Care Homes, which owns Westlands, said afterwards: “It has been a pretty horrible situation that has gone on for quite a long time and for the residents and families to have gone through that, so we are satisfied to have got the conclusion we wanted.
“We are angry that somebody would do this to our residents. People who work in care do so because they are supposedly caring people. Clearly she wasn’t.”
Maggie Tolliday, whose 91-year-old mother Iris was one of the 19 residents, said: “It has been very difficult and you’re almost relieved that they (the residents) could not remember what was going on.”
She praised what she described as “a very, very good, caring home” for taking a huge risk in raising the issue, possibly jeopardising its reputation.
“I’m just glad that Offae got what she deserved and I don’t want to see her anywhere near any vulnerable people ever again,” she added.