Judgement given in ill-treatment case

A SERIOUSLY ill former nursing home owner has escaped punishment despite being found responsible for ill-treating three patients.A judge at Ipswich Crown Court gave 62-year-old Reginald Collier an absolute discharge yesterday after hearing that he was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and had been in a hospital's intensive care unit since before Christmas.

A SERIOUSLY ill former nursing home owner has escaped punishment despite being found responsible for ill-treating three patients.

A judge at Ipswich Crown Court gave 62-year-old Reginald Collier an absolute discharge yesterday after hearing that he was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and had been in a hospital's intensive care unit since before Christmas.

Collier, who had owned the Beech Hall Residential Care Home in Depden, near Bury St Edmunds, with his wife Valerie, was found by a jury to be unfit to stand trial due to his own health problems.

As a result of that decision another jury was sworn in at Ipswich Crown Court last week to hear evidence in Collier's absence of his alleged ill-treatment of patients.


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The jury was told that because Collier was not fit to stand trial it would only have to decide if he had done the acts alleged against him rather than finding him guilty or not guilty.

Yesterday the jury found that Collier had ill-treated three patients between January 1997 and May 2001 but had not assaulted one of them.

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David Burrows, for Collier, who has no previous convictions, said that a psychiatric report showed that although he was suffering from depression he was not suffering from a mental illness that required his admission to hospital for treatment.

He said the case had been hanging over Collier's head for some time and the worry of it was having a detrimental affect on his health.

He said Collier and his wife were living in Yorkshire and she regularly visited him in hospital.

Judge David Goodin said that as Collier was not a danger to himself or the public he was driven by the law and the limited option available to him to pass an absolute discharge.

During the trial it was alleged that vulnerable patients at Beech Hall were force-fed and bullied by Collier who acted like a "Victorian headmaster".

Collier was described as "eccentric and overbearing" and was accused of ill-treating patients over a four-year period.

Staff at the home became increasingly concerned at the treatment of patients, all of whom had severe learning disabilities, and in 2001 the police were called in.

Witnesses alleged Collier, who had owned Beech Hall with his wife since 1975, had force-fed a patient, verbally abused or physically struck patients, or teased and tormented them.

After the case, Joanna Spicer, a relative of a former Beech Hall resident, said: "I believe that the verdicts reached by the jury at Ipswich Crown Court were correct.

"The former staff from Beech Hall were very brave to come to the court and I am relieved that

their evidence was accepted by the jury.

"However, during the six days of the trial there was also reference to some of the strengths and successes of Beech Hall over a long time which I had personally seen, and I much regret that events of the last few years before Beech Hall closed led to this case coming before the court."

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