Jury hears how documentary maker recruited undercover operative for case
Joe Plomin, director and producer of the Panorama documentary which is responsible for uncovering alleged abuse within Whorlton Hall care home, gave evidence in Teesside Crown Court yesterday. (March 21)
Plomin had regular contact with the undercover operative, Olivia Davies, during her 38 days working at Whorton Hall.
The director and producer said Miss Davies would regularly carry out 12-hour shifts at the home working alongside the nine people on trial.
Plomin told the court that he conducted a very extensive, and dynamic risk assessment throughout the evidence-gathering period.
“When undertaking an undercover investigation, in a locked hospital, we want to ensure we have thought through, carefully and based on intelligence, the implications for the undercover operative we’ve hired, for the patients and for other staff.”
When asked about the training that Whorlton Hall provided to Ms Davies, Mr Plomin confirmed from his statement that she was provided with seven days of in-house training.
The court heard how the BBC Panorama team lived in a nearby ‘production flat’, and how the undercover operative was allegedly seen, debriefed, and prepared for each shift; met after each shift, and discussed what had occurred.
Mr Patton, defence counsel for Neil Mellor cross-examined Mr Plomin, turning his attention to how the undercover operative, Olivia Davies, was recruited for the role. Over a dozen males and females were allegedly interviewed.
When asked if he decided to recruit a female performer for the position, Plomin responded. “No, I decided to have Olivia, she was the standout candidate regardless of gender.”
Mr Patton asked why Plomin did not contact CQC to say they were filming in the premises and that there were ‘safeguarding issues.’
Plomin stated that the team did do that, once they had got it into a form that they could take action over, “if you turn to the authorities and say ‘there is an issue here, the will ask what your evidence is, what your proof is, you need to turn it into a form that they can take action over.”
Plomin was asked whether the Panorama team had contacted relatives of the patients featured in the documentary, to which he confirmed that they had contacted some families, all before the programme was aired.
The defendants are:
- John Sanderson, 25, of Cambridge Avenue, Willington, who faces two charges of ill-treatment of a person in care;
- Darren Mark Lawton, 47, of Miners Crescent, Darlington, who faces two counts of ill-treatment of a person in care;
- Niall Mellor, 26, of Lingmell Dene, Coundon, Bishop Auckland, is accused of two counts of ill-treatment of a patient;
- Sarah Banner, 33, from Faulkner Road, Newton Aycliffe, is accused of three counts of ill-treatment of a patient;
- Her husband Matthew Banner, 43, of the same address, is charged with six counts of ill-treatment of a patient;
- Ryan Fuller, 26, from of Deerbolt Bank, Barnard Castle, faces ten charges of ill-treatment of a patient;
- Sabah Mahmood, 27, of Woodland Crescent, Kelloe, is charged with one count of ill-treatment of a patient;
- Peter Bennett, 52, of Redworth Road, Billingham, faces three counts of ill-treatment of a patient;
- Karen McGhee, 54, from Wildair Close, Darlington, who faces two counts of ill-treatment of a patient and one of wilful neglect.