91-year-old woman’s hypothermia death shows “woeful” gaps in laws

91-year-old woman’s hypothermia death shows “woeful” gaps in laws

Action on Elder Abuse (AEA) has today (Thursday September 29th) hit out at inadequate laws following the horrific death of 91-year-old Annie Barritt, who was allowed to freeze to death at Oaklands Country Rest Home.

Mrs Barritt died of hypothermia on 4th November 2012. She had been given no hot food or drink that day and was in a room with faulty heating, which the care home already knew about but had failed to fix.

When found, Mrs Barritt had a temperature of just 25.3C (77.5F), nearly 10 degrees below the hypothermia threshold of 35C and so low it could not even be registered on a thermometer.

Her family voiced concern when they found her cold to touch on a visit five days before her death, but nothing was done

Maria Mallaband Care Group Ltd, the Leeds-based company that owns the care home in question and has an annual turnover £50 million, has been fined £1.6m.

But Chief Executive of AEA Gary FitzGerald has highlighted how the prosecution against Maria Mallaband Care Group Ltd points out a gap in our justice system.

“This is an absolutely horrific case and we can only imagine the pain Mrs Barritt’s family have been through trying to get justice.

“The fact that prosecutors could only bring charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act shows the woeful gap in the law. It clearly shows there is not sufficient legal apparatus to deal with crimes against older people.

“Currently, to charge any individual with neglect, they would have to prove that it had been wilful – but it is unacceptable that someone can freeze to death in a care home, yet because of a gap in our laws, no-one may be held accountable.

“This case shows the pressing need for us to make abuse of older people an aggravated offence.

“Our laws are completely failing to protect older people suffering from abuse, and this inability to effectively counter the suffering of older people amounts to institutional ageism.”

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