Carer found guilty of assaulting a man with Down's syndrome

PUBLISHED: 13:00 05 October 2016

Andrew Driver was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court.

Andrew Driver was sentenced at Bristol Crown Court.

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A Weston-super-Mare carer is facing the sack after being found guilty of slapping a man with Down's syndrome in the face and punching him in the chest.

Andrew Driver, aged 46, has been told he ‘will never work in care again’ after assaulting a client he was supposed to be looking after in December.

Driver, of George Street in Weston, denied assaulting 52-year-old David Booth but was convicted during a trial at North Somerset Courthouse on Friday.

Magistrates were told how Driver worked for Weston-based learning disability service Onetrue Step and visited Mr Booth three times a week to take him on days out.

On the day of the incident, Driver picked up Mr Booth – who is unable to speak – from Upton Cottage care home in Clevedon, where he lives, for a day out.

Driver stopped the car at Tesco in Clevedon, where he then went against Onetrue Step protocol by locking Mr Booth in the car while he went to check the bus timetable for his next client.

Mr Booth has a long-standing fear of cars and was only just getting used to travelling in them in the months leading up to the incident.

Upon returning to the vehicle, Driver unlocked the car – an action which prompted an unsettled Mr Booth to climb out of the passenger side door.

Witness Linda Swaney was pulling into the car park at the time and saw the two men. She told the court she witnessed Driver slapping Mr Booth around the face and punching him in the chest multiple times, yelling ‘get in the car now’.

Driver said he saw Mrs Swaney watching them. He described her as giving him ‘eyes of thunder’ and he told the court ‘I knew I was in trouble’.

However, Driver told the court he had been ‘caressing’ Mr Booth’s face to encourage him back into the car.

When Driver and Mr Booth later arrived back at Upton Cottage, one of the home’s workers Susan Coombe told the court Driver had sweat on his brow and was ‘high on adrenaline’.

The home’s manager Joanne Keene told the Mercury: “We have worked really hard to give over the evidence (prosecutors) needed and we are pleased it was a guilty verdict. He will never work in care again.”

Throughout the trial, Driver maintained his innocence, stating he ‘would never do that’.

But, in his closing statement, prosecutor Kevin Blackmore told him: “You did assault David Booth. You realised the consequences of what will happen to you so you made up a series of events which would match.”

Driver worked for Onetrue Step for two and a half years as a peer support worker.

He was suspended from his position as soon as the matter came to light.

The service has since been taken over by Selborne Care Ltd, changing ownership in April this year, and its director Simon Bishop told the Mercury: “Selborne is therefore unable to comment on the case, but wishes to emphasise that it has a zero tolerance policy towards any forms of abuse in connection with its services.”

Driver has been released on bail, and will be sentenced at North Somerset Courthouse on October 14.

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