Whorlton Hall inquiry: Nine former hospital staff charged over patient abuse allegations

Nine former staff members at a hospital in County Durham are facing criminal charges in relation to allegations of abuse of patients with learning difficulties.

Six men and three women have been charged with one or more counts of ill treatment or wilful neglect of an individual by a care worker.

The alleged physical and psychological abuse took place at Whorlton Hall, an independent disability and autism hospital near Barnard Castle, specialising in care for vulnerable patients.

The accused are John Sanderson, 24, from Willington; Darren Lawton, 46, from Darlington; Niall Mellor, 24, from Bishop Auckland; Sara Banner, 31, from Newton Aycliffe; Matthew Banner, 41, from Newton Aycliffe; Ryan Fuller, 26, from Startforth; Sabah Mahmood, 26, from Kelloe; Peter Bennett, 52, from Darlington and Karen McGee, 53, from Darlington.

They are due to appear at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on 9 November.

The charges follow a long-running investigation by Durham Constabulary – codenamed Operation Sarto – into allegations of abuse of patients at the hospital reported in a BBC Panorama documentary in 2019.

Whorlton Hall was privately-run but funded by the NHS, and has since closed.

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