Apology over OAP's ordeal

A Norfolk pensioner, who was torn from her husband of more than 60 years when he was taken into care, has received a formal apology after launching a false imprisonment claim.

A PENSIONER who was removed from his wife of more than 60 years and taken to a Gorleston care home has received an apology from Norfolk County Council.

Marjorie and James Butcher, from Bunwell, had been inseparable since their wedding day in 1944, but were split up when social services staff took him to Gresham Nursing Home.

Mrs Butcher, who was left “devastated” by the enforced separation, received the apology from Norfolk County Council at a High Court hearing in London.

The 86-year-old launched the legal action against the local authority, which made the decision to take her husband to the care home, after claiming that the council had breached the Human Rights Act and falsely imprisoned him.

The county council yesterday said it would be reviewing its policies after expressing its “sincere regret” for removing Mr Butcher from his marital home in July 2006.

Mrs Butcher, who has now with-drawn the false imprisonment claim, had been caring for her husband after he was diagnosed with dementia and lung cancer in 2004.

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But by 2006, she needed more specialist help from social services and on July 21 she received a phone call and was told that Mr Butcher was going to be taken to a care home.

That very afternoon, he was wheeled into an ambulance and taken away.

The High Court heard that Mrs Butcher had no form of transport and had to pay �30 to get to the care home, and could only make limited visits. Mr Butcher died aged 82 in September 2007.

Andrew Warnock, barrister for Norfolk County Council, told Mrs Butcher at the High Court hearing: “We apologise for, and sincerely regret that because of the unavailability of a carer at short notice in this case there was not the opportunity to discuss in as much detail as Norfolk Social Services would have liked, the need for removal to Gorleston, both with you and your daughters.”

“Norfolk Social Services believed at all times that they were acting in your husband's best interests, but understand how upsetting that event must have been to you given the short time available for decisions to be made.”

Mrs Butcher's solicitor, Frances Swaine, yesterday said the legal action would have been needless if the county council had apologised at the time.

“Mrs Butcher is happy with the apology she has received and wishes that it had been offered after the events in question rather than waiting over two years. Although the facts in every case are unique, I think that we are seeing more and more of these type of events up and down the country,” she said.