A CRUEL worker who slapped elderly care home residents has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Debra Coucill wept in the dock at Bolton Magistrates’ Court as details of her behaviour at the Woodlands Care Home in Westhoughton were read out.

The callous care assistant slapped two women across the face as she was tending to them, forced a woman’s hand into the pensioner’s own mouth, shouted at residents and treated them roughly.

Her actions came to light after whistleblowers, two other members of staff, Amber Coleman and Loanna Orr, reported her to management.

They were praised by chairman of the bench, Dr Fiona Maynard who said: “We would like to recognise and acknowledge the courage shown by the two witnesses in the care home.

“If it wasn’t for them these offences my not, actually, have come to light.”

Coucill, aged 52, of Kildare Street, Bolton, had denied ill-treating residents but, following a trial, was found guilty.

She was sentenced to 26 weeks, suspended for 12 months and ordered to undertake 180 hours on unpaid work as well as paying a total of £765 in prosecution costs and charges.

Dr Maynard told Coucill: “These are serious matters. There was a breach of trust when you were in a position of authority. The people concerned were vulnerable adults.”

The court had heard that after elderly Constance Knowles, who has dementia, attempted to kick out at Miss Coleman on February 13 last year, Coucill struck her across the face, adding: “You don’t like it doing to you, so don’t do it to us.”

And later that day, after another dementia sufferer, Marjory Hall, also lashed out, Coucill slapped her across the face. Since the incident Mrs Hall has died.

Ms Orr also told how Coucill roughly pushed a resident back against a pillow.

Jonathan Conder, defending Coucill, who was suspended from her job as a hotel assistant housekeeper following her conviction, appealed to the court to only pass a community sentence, citing her previous good character.

He said: “Whatever has happened on this occasion is completely out of character and seems to have come completely out of the blue.”

He said that elderly dementia patients can often be “volatile, unpredictable and sometimes can be violent.

“We should have sympathy for people who work in care homes who have to work in difficult situations.

“It is stressful and sometimes people do lose their temper. It is not an excuse — it is understanding, to a degree, that these things do happen.”

Following the hearing, a spokesman for the home said:“Woodlands Care Group supported this prosecution, and we are pleased that a conviction has resulted.

“We take the care and welfare of our residents very seriously and suspended the individual when we became aware of a problem and followed the safeguarding protocol we have in place.

“This kind of behaviour should not be tolerated, and we echo the magistrate’s comment in thanking the whistle-blowers who brought it to our attention.”