Jail warning for Hartlepool care home boss found guilty after pensioner’s death fall

Matt Matharu at Teesside Crown Court
Matt Matharu at Teesside Crown Court

A CARE home boss could face jail after a 90-year-old resident plunged to her death from her bedroom window.

Matt Matharu, 50, who owns Parkview residential home, in Seaton Carew, was warned he could be jailed for up to two years after he was convicted at Teesside Crown Court yesterday afternoon.

A jury of two men and 10 women took just 40 minutes to return unanimous guilty verdicts to two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The trial came after Norah Elliott was able to climb out of her first-floor bedroom window of the home on Station Lane, on October 22, 2012.

The jury heard no chain was found attached to the window and if there was, it was not strong enough.

Mrs Elliott, who suffered from dementia, fell from a conservatory roof and later died after suffering severe injuries to her face and legs.

A spokesman for the family today welcomed the verdict, saying: “Obviously it has been a distressing time.

“We are satisfied that justice has been done. This case highlights the need for care homes to comply fully with health and safety regulations, particularly where elderly relatives are entrusted into their care.”

Mrs Elliott and husband Bob, who suffered more severe dementia, had only moved into the home a few days beforehand.

On the night she died, the trial heard Mrs Elliott had been agitated and been returned to her room after she was found wandering around outside.

Police officers who searched her bedroom heard no window chain, which Matharu said had been fixed to the window, was found.

And police discovered a chain on the room’s other window was easily broken.

Ambulance driver Michael Higham, who gave evidence, told the trial the home’s manager Barbara Jacques told him there was no lock on the window following a recent refurbishment.

Matharu, who runs other care homes in the Hartlepool area, was prosecuted by Hartlepool Borough Council in a trial lasting eight days.

He said he had done everything reasonably expected of him to protect people in the home.

Matharu claimed the window had been fitted with a chain to prevent it opening too far.

And he said the council had not raised any concerns about window safety at the home, or any others, during recent inspections.

Patrick Crowe, a senior environmental health officer said during the case: “The fact Mrs Elliott got out in the first place suggests that [chain] wasn’t there in the first place or was easily defeatable.”

Matharu, of Elwick Road, Hartlepool, is now facing anything from a fine to up to two years in jail.

He was granted bail until he is sentenced on a date to be fixed.

Judge Michael Taylor said: “The maximum prison sentence available is one of two years imprisonment.

“It seems to me all sentencing options are open, therefore I will call for a pre-sentence report.”

The judge said he also wanted time to consider newly-published sentencing guidelines for the offences.

Matharu will also be asked to provide details of his finances to the court in time for sentencing.