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19 December 2012, 12:34 | Updated: 20 December 2012, 12:39
A report's revealed a healthcare assistant accused of sexually assaulting an elderly stroke patient at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital was allowed to go back to work and abuse 14 more victims.
Ameet Mohabeer (right) was suspended after one man claimed he had abused him in the bathroom at the L&D, but after Bedfordshire police found he had no case to answer, Mohabeer was allowed to return to work.
He went on to molest more victims in the bathrooms, shower rooms and behind curtains on Ward 17, a specialist stroke ward.
He was arrested again in February 2011 when two more complaints were made. After a helpline was set up, more victims came forward.
Mohabeer, who began work at the hospital in November 2006, pleaded not guilty when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court on the 15 September 2011 to 17 charges; 13 of sexual assault and four of causing a man to engage in penetrative sexual activity between October 2008 and January 2011.
Ten days later, aged 28, he committed suicide at his home in Butely Road, Luton. In a letter he said he was not taking his life because he was guilty.
On Wednesday 19 December, an inquiry by the Adult Safeguarding Boards of Luton and Central Beds Law revealed that on the 30 November 2009 a patient complained of sex abuse to a ward sister. Mohabeer was suspended and questioned by the police who said he had no case to answer because the victim's account of what happened was ambiguous and inconsistent. Mohabeer was reinstated and carried on his duties on ward 17.
The report's author Derek Law said at the time the case should have been raised with the senior staff at the hospital and a more "robust approach" may have been adopted.
He said the threshold of proof applied to Police Prosecutions is higher than that applied to safeguarding adults. Consideration might also have been given to a recommendation that two members of the nursing staff attend personal care tasks of patients on the ward, particularly bathing, for a specified period of time.
The inquiry received an acknowledgment from Bedfordshire Police that a sufficiently trained detective would not have closed the 2009 investigation in the manner it was closed.
When the 2011 offences came to light at the inquiry, three weeks elapsed between the date of the first alert on the 11 January 2011 and the second on the 4 February 2011.
"This was largely due to the victim not making contact with the police but also the apparent indecisiveness shown by the agencies involved. In the meantime the clock was ticking and time passing and the question needs to be asked whether this time period exposed other alleged victims who had since come forward to report their experiences, to risk of abuse from within that time period," the report said.
In his conclusion Mr Law stated that while it is appreciated that always having two members of staff assisting vulnerable adults in personal care tasks is impractical, it is strongly recommended that Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust introduce measures that can check that vulnerable patients are safeguarded.
He also recommended that the Joint Adult Safeguarding Board Sub Group should take account of any lessons arising out of the Department of Health inquiry into the Jimmy Savile abuse inquiries at Stoke Mandeville, Leeds General Infirmary, West London Mental Health Trust and Broadmoor Hospital.
One former patient said: "When it happened to me, I was told I was imagining it. It wasn't taken seriously. It's not the sort of thing you imagine though is it? You go into hospital to be treated and get better, not to be sexually assaulted."
At a press conference in Luton, Pauline Philip, the Chief Executive of the Luton and Dunstable hospital, said there had been two legal claims by victims of sex abuse on the stroke ward or their families.
She said: "There have been two legal cases - one has been settled and one is about to be settled."
She was not able to give details of the amount of money involved but said the hospital was "deeply sorry" for what happened.
After the first complaint in 2009 she said there had been no complaints about the healthcare assistant. She said: "We have to admit that he was popular, well-liked and genuinely respected."
At the time he worked there she said no other members of staff had suspicions.