Shakuntala Mudaliar, 48, made her first appearance in court yesterday after being charged on January 2 with the assault of five elderly residents at a Warilla nursing home in NSW.
The accused-attacker arrived at the Port Kembla Local Court shielding her face from camera with a scarf, in an attempt to hide her identity and entered a ‘not guilty’ plea to all five counts of assault once inside the court.
It is alleged that Ms. Mudaliar assaulted three women and two male residents between the months of October and December last year before the carer was stood down from duty on December 24 after management was alerted to the assaults by other staff.
Police believe that four of the assaults involved Ms. Mudaliar striking her victims, while the other incident is said to have involved her spraying a resident in the face with a cleaning product.
The victims of the attacks were aged between 74 and 87, and police had to rely on witnesses giving detailed accounts of the attacks in order to lay charges because all of the victims were living with dementia.
A daughter of one of the alleged victims told local media that she felt as if she had ‘failed her mother,’ after being notified of her mother’s assault in late December last year.
Lake Illawarra police crime manager Detective Chief Inspector Glen Broadhead relayed his thoughts on the incidents at a press conference that held after Ms. Mudaliar was initially charged.
“For an elderly victim to be assaulted in a facility where they believe they are going to be cared for is unfathomable to the community,” he said.
“Allegations of violence need to be brought to light and investigated so victims can be protected.”
“It is very important that we look after the vulnerable members in our community and we need to ensure they feel safe.”
Detective Chief Inspector Glen Broadhead also remarked that police were continuing with their investigation of Ms. Mudaliar’s time within the facility, noting that further charges could be laid if there was sufficient evidence to do so.
Ms. Mudaliar’s case returns to Port Kembla Local Court on April 10.
If Ms. Mudaliar is indeed found guilty of assaulting 5 elderly people in her care, is there any chance that an Australian judge might use their power to actually send a message that abuse and neglect of elderly people is not O.K?
Only one week ago, former aged care worker Prakash Paudyal won an appeal and was freed from jail only one month into his already meager 4-month minimum jail term.
Mr. Paudyal had been caught on CCTV attacking an 82-year-old dementia patient with a shoe and had previously caused the same resident to fall out of his bed due to rough treatment.
Sadly, the paltry sentencing and sympathies being given to those who prey on vulnerable elderly people have become commonplace in this country, with very few elderly abusers ever seeing the inside of a jail.
And I for one hope, that the next judge who has an opportunity to sentence someone for abusing or neglecting an elderly person takes that opportunity to send a message and give a sentence that reflects the suffering of the victim more than the sympathies towards the perpetrator.
Photo Credit: Andrew Pearson – Illawarra Mercury