Eastbourne woman jailed after filming care home residents

Eileen Sta Maria
Eileen Sta Maria

A CARER who filmed a semi-naked elderly man having his incontinence pad changed and encouraging another to swear has been jailed for a year.

Eileen Sta Maria looked visibly shaken as Eastbourne magistrates told her the offences were so serious that an immediate spell in custody was the only appropriate sentence.

The 24-year-old defendant was arrested after she left her iPhone on a train and a member of the public handed it in to police after spotting three film clips of residents at Bupa-run Elstree Court Nursing Home.

On Wednesday the court was shown the clips in which Sta Maria, of Hartfield Road, was heard asking a resident to open their eyes, clap their hands and ‘give her a smile’.

In return for one of the requests she was heard saying she would give their glasses back to them.

The second showed a semi-naked man having an incontinence pad changed and magistrates heard more than the necessary amount of staff were in the room at the time. The last heard her encouraging a woman to swear.

Sta Maria, who had no criminal record prior to these offences, pleaded guilty to three counts of ill treating a person believed to lack mental capacity at an earlier hearing and the case was adjourned for reports.

Christos Christou, defending, said, “I understand she was a massively respected member of staff.

“She admitted the offences, accepted making the three clips on March 31, the day after and the final one in September last year.

“She expressed remorse in her report and wishes to apologise to the victims and their families.”

Magistrates sentenced Sta Maria to four months in jail for each offence to run consecutively.

Detective Constable Jamie Pooley, who works for the Adult Protection Team, said, “The piece of legislation that Sta Maria was prosecuted under was introduced in 2005 and this is the first instance of any person being prosecuted under it in this area of East Sussex.

“The outcome of this wider investigation was that two other members of staff from Elstree Court were also dismissed, however the policies and procedures in place at the home were found to be adequate and I would like to extend my thanks to the staff there for the assistance and co-operation that was forthcoming throughout my investigation.

“I would also like to express my sympathy for the individuals who were directly affected by this.

“It is impossible to know how this matter has affected them or their families, however the sentence passed on the defendant demonstrates that any crimes committed against elderly or vulnerable adults are taken very seriously by the police and the courts - particularly where the offender is breaching a privileged position of trust or responsibility as was the case here.”

Sta Maria’s solicitor is appealing the sentence. An application for bail pending the appeal was denied by magistrates.

A spokesperson for Bupa said, “Our residents’ wellbeing and dignity is our highest priority, and this gross breach of trust, while extremely rare, appalled us. We apologised at the time for the distress caused and would like to repeat that apology today.

“We will not tolerate such behaviour. As soon as we discovered this incident, she was suspended and later dismissed. We have actively worked to support the police prosecution.”