Carer guilty of indecent assault

A FORMER mayor and chairman of the Suffolk Police Committee is today facing jail for indecently assaulting a desperately ill patient at the hospital ward where he worked as a carer.

A FORMER mayor and chairman of the Suffolk Police Committee is today facing jail for indecently assaulting a desperately ill patient at the hospital ward where he worked as a carer.

Colin Jones, past mayor of St Edmundsbury, stared ahead stony-faced as he was convicted unanimously of the West Suffolk Hospital attack.

A jury of nine men and three women yesterday took less than two hours to find him guilty of touching his vulnerable victim – who was almost bedridden at the time – in intimate areas of her body which went "way beyond" his healthcare duties.

Judge Simon Barham, who released Jones, 56, of Dane Common, Kedington, near Haverhill, on unconditional bail for pre-sentence reports to be prepared, told the former politician he could expect to go to prison.

"I make it plain that the fact bail has been given is no indication of the likely sentence. I will consider all the options but a custodial sentence is what I have in mind at the moment."

The detective who investigated the incident last night welcomed the verdict. He said sick patients deserved to be treated with respect and stressed that allegations of this nature would be taken seriously no matter whom they were made against.

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DC Nigel Gregory said: "This was a particularly sensitive case involving a vulnerable female being treated as an inpatient at West Suffolk Hospital. Irrespective of whom an allegation is made against, complaints of this nature are carefully and thoroughly investigated.

"I think the jury has come to a fair verdict. Anyone in this patient's position deserves to be treated with the appropriate care and respect. I would like to convey my thanks to her and to hospital staff for their co-operation in bringing this matter to court."

A statement issued by the Bury St Edmunds hospital said Jones, who was mayor of St Edmundsbury in 1995, was immediately suspended from working as a health care support worker when the incident was reported in May last year. He later resigned from his post.

It added: "The West Suffolk Hospitals NHS Trust does everything in its power to appoint people who are fit for the job. In line with new legislation, from March, 2002, successful applicants for the position of health care support worker will be required to obtain an enhanced disclosure check (police check) before they are appointed."

The statement said the support workers were "extremely" valuable members of the ward team and were trained to deliver care alongside qualified nurses and under their direction.

During Jones' three-day trial at Norwich Crown Court, the victim, who suffers from a "life ending" disease that affects her joints, muscles and lungs, told the court he said she was developing bedsores but applied cream to her private parts instead of to the areas where the problem usually develops.

She was admitted to the ward where Jones worked when her illness went into "full flare".

The grandmother, 58, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he offered to give her a bedbath but she became worried as she watched Jones carefully close all the gaps in the curtains surrounding her bed on the full ward.

She said: "I ended up half-naked on the bed. He proceeded to wash me and was very clumsy. He said I looked a bit sore and would like to give me some cream for bedsores.

"It was terribly upsetting. I remember saying, 'That's not where I get bedsores'. I was in total shock, I could feel the heat from his breath. He didn't say anything to me at all, he just did it.

"I remember trying not to cry. I was also in a lot of pain. I thought this couldn't be happening to me."

She said he repeated the indecent assault minutes later after he had brought her a commode.

Jones, a past chairman of the Suffolk Police Committee, now called the Suffolk Police Authority, will be sentenced at Norwich Crown Court within the next month. The exact date is still to be fixed.

The former mayor, who denied a single charge of indecent assault, declined to comment about his conviction after the case and his barrister, Adam Budworth, said it was too early to say whether an appeal would be launched.