Sentencing Due in Sophie Bennett Care Home Case

Charity and care home manager have admitted charges of neglect

Sophie Bennett
Sophie Bennett

The latest court case relating to the death of teenager Sophie Bennett who died after being placed in a care home by Wandsworth Council is due to conclude this week.

Richmond Psychosocial Foundation International (RPFI) and manager Peggy Jhugroo, who led the Lancaster Lodge care home in which Sophie died, will be sentenced at Uxbridge Magistrates Court on Friday (5 March) after both parties entered guilty pleas.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) decided to prosecute the charity and manager of the home after an inquest in 2019 into Sophie’s death which concluded with the jury finding that “neglect” was a contributory factor..

At the time of the inquest verdict Wandsworth Council said, “The jury found that there were serious failings on the part of the organisation that ran Lancaster Lodge. It was particularly concerning that RPFI staff did not communicate properly with us, did not inform nor consult us about significant changes they were making in the operation of the care home. They gave social services false information about their management of a serious incident which occurred just before Sophie’s death, when they were advised by other professionals to take her to A&E and failed to do so. It also emerged that they then, unbeknownst to us, failed to follow their own crisis plan to safeguard Sophie’s health and welfare."

In October 2019 Duncan Lawrence, who worked as a consultant at Lancaster Lodge was sentenced to four months in custody for failing to give evidence to the inquest. He arranged for somebody to impersonate him in a preliminary Skype session with the court but a member of the coroner’s staff spotted that it was not him.

Sophie, who was from Tooting died on 4 May 2016. She was 19 years old and she had been cared for at Lancaster Lodge, a therapeutic community run by RPFI since April 2015.

Sophie had told her family was like a ‘boot camp’ after a change of management. After protests from residents and staff, therapies were continued but the standard of care at the home fell to the extent that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) assessed the service as ‘inadequate’ in March 2016. Experienced staff had been replaced with unqualified personnel and therapy sessions with professional counsellors were cancelled and yoga was introduced as an alternative. However, the home remained open until after Sophie’s death.

60-year-old Lawrence, who was described as the centres lead clinician had a non-medical doctorate which is believed to have been bought from a “degree mill” university in Denmark, was said at the inquest to have introduced “a dictatorship – with 19th-century governance”.

The CQC brought the prosecution against RPFI over an alleged failure to provide safe care and treatment under the Health and Social Care Act 2008. Peggy Jhugroo, who was involved in Sophie’s care and leading the care home at the time of Sophie’s death was also prosecuted under the Act

The Charity Commission have opened a statutory inquiry into RPFI which is ongoing.

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March 3, 2021