The Vunerable Adult

The Case Of the Vunerable Adult

In March 2002, a 30-year-old woman with learning disabilities was admitted to Borders General Hospital in Scotland with multiple injuries as a result of sustained physical and sexual assaults. The abuse had been carried out at home and was perpetrated by three men, one of whom was her carer. ‘The case of the vulnerable adult’  is the term that the individual involved has asked to be used. Her identity is protected under rules giving anonymity to victims of rape.

What Happened
The woman had made allegations against one of the perpetrators as a child but agencies decided her mother could protect her. When her mother died, he was allowed to become her carer, making her sleep on a carpet in the hall at his home. He began taking the woman’s benefit money, deprived her of food and liquid and made her sit in the dark for long periods. Together with two friends he forced her to strip, shaved her head, sexually assaulted her and repeatedly stamped on her face and body. They also threw the woman over a fence, handcuffed her to a door and set fire to her clothing.The police, health and social services had been aware of allegations of abuse dating back to the woman’s childhood. These had been investigated and reported to the Procurator Fiscal but she was considered an unreliable witness due to her learning disability.
The Response
The woman had been known to police, social services and the health board from her early childhood. As a subsequent investigation into the case found, ‘Over many years, there were events and statements in records held by social work, health services and the police that raised serious concerns about this person’s (the primary carer following the mother’s death) behaviour toward this woman’. In the period leading up to the ‘vulnerable adult’s’ hospital admission in 2002, the abuse had clearly escalated to extreme levels.
A police investigation into the circumstances of the ‘vulnerable adult’ was triggered when a...