A senior nurse accused of forcing an elderly man to swallow a sedative in a psychiatric hospital spent two years of torment before a jury threw out the case in five minutes.
Kevin Bragg, 55, was suspended from work despite insisting he was the victim of a malicious complaint, months after the incident when he had done everything possible to care for the 69-year-old man who was ill.
Mr Bragg, of Cornelius Walk, Market Weighton, told police nothing had happened, but the Crown Prosecution Service went ahead with a six-day trial at Hull Crown Court after two nurses said they were shocked at what he had done.
Crucially, the CPS chose to ignore the evidence of another nurse, Anita Brennan, who did not describe him as forcing the patient, but offering the tablet. She was called as a witness and said he had used minimal force and was “looking after the patient’s own good”.
His barrister Bernard Gateshill criticised “the political nature” of the inquiry where a complaint against a nurse was proceeded to trial no matter whether there was contradictory evidence. The prosecution was unable to prove he was “inexcusably” ill-treating a patient and was reckless.
A jury took just five minutes to find Mr Bragg not guilty of a single charge of ill-treatment of a hospital patient contrary to the 1983 Mental Health Act. Mr Bragg wept with relief after the verdict and was comforted by his family outside court.
A jury heard the incident happened on 2 April 2013, in the Derwent Ward at the Humber Centre, Willerby, a medium secure unit for people with mental health problems. It was witnessed by a series of nurses who gave differing accounts.
Nurse Paula Doyle, who was in the seclusion unit nursing the patient that night, said she found Mr Bragg holding the patient’s forehead with his left arm and using his right arm to force zoplicone into his mouth.
She said the patient was refusing to take his medication and Mr Bragg had his hand over his mouth trying to get him to swallow.
She said: “I was shocked and upset and thought it was terrible. It is not how you should administer medication.”
The patient was “in a bad way, uncooperative and aggressive.” That night he had been to the bathroom and was refusing to get dressed. It was his first day back after release from Hull Royal Infirmary for renal failure.
Nurse Dolores Harkins said she had witnessed Mr Bragg trying to force the medication. She said: “He tried to force it in. I was absolutely shocked. I said you can’t do that. You are not allowed to do that.” He said: “I can do what I want.”
However, nurse Anita Brennan said the patient came out of the toilet with no clothes on and was waving his arms and agitated. Mr Bragg was trying to preserve his dignity, by covering him, but he was taking his clothes off.
She said Mr Bragg was holding a cup with tablets trying to encourage the patient to take them. She said he was trying to put them in his mouth. She said “he was using minimal force. The patient was not injured. He was looking after the patient’s own good. She said she did not remember Dolores Harkins saying anything while this happened.
She said there was no risk of choking and Mr Bragg had not lost his temper, got cross or behaved in an unprofessional way.
Mrs Doyle said she had tried to report Mr Bragg. She said she did not want him to be sacked but thought the trust would reprimand him and handle it internally. She was accused by Mr Bragg’s barrister Bernard Gateshill of maliciously making up the complaint for personal reasons.
Mr Bragg told the jury he had worked 60 hours that week in difficult circumstances, but did not use any physical restraint whatsoever. He said he offered the man medication and he turned his head away. He said ultimately the tablet was administered by someone else.
Mr Bragg said: “I have been in turmoil since being removed from the ward. I have never been interviewed by the police in my life.” Mr Gateshill told the jury Mr Bragg was constrained from giving his account by the three-month delay in the reporting of the incident and the trust refusal to allow him to see staff records he had helped create before he could be interviewed by the police.
Gemma Smith, the ward manager, said she had never received a bullying complaint about Mr Bragg from Mrs Doyle and denied there was a cover-up. She said she took her responsibility as a nurse and ward manager very seriously.
References described Mr Bragg as “a very caring, thoughtful, patient man who was good at de-escalating situations”.
One former colleague, who is now a police officer, concluded: “He was one of the finest carers I have ever dealt with.”