A CARER touched the nipple of an elderly dementia patient she was supposed to be looking after.

Burnley Crown Court heard 54-year-old Annabelle Cuenca Benitez whispered 'I miss my mummy' before assaulting her victim at Bank Hall Care Home in Burnley.

The care worker, who was contracted to an agency at the time of the incident, was later struck off over the incident after a colleague reported her immediately, the court was told.

Prosecuting, Stephen Parker said: "The defendant was working as a care assistant at the care home with a colleague Christine Crossan.

"During the course of their duties that day they had cause to care for the victim, a long-term resident of that establishment.

"In the August of last year she was suffering with dementia.

"She was wholly reliant on carers for dressing, washing and other duties. The defendant and Ms Crossan had gone to the victim's bed to wash her.

"Most of that had been done and during the course of the process Ms Crossan had to leave the room for a short while.

"She returned to see the defendant lean over and whisper almost in the victim's ear 'I miss my mummy'. She was then seen touching the nipple of the victim's left breast."

Mr Parker said Ms Crossan had a clear and unobstructed view of what Benitez was doing.

She said the touching had only lasted for a few seconds but the victim was left looking confused by what Benitez had done.

Ms Crossan said she was shocked by what had happened and reported it straight away.

During police interview Benitez denied any wrongdoing and said she was merely washing and caring for her victim.

Mother-of-two Benitez, of Allerton, Bradford, pleaded guilty to common assault.

Defending, Alison Whalley, said her client was from the Philippines and before this incident she had been sending money home to fund her niece and nephew's university eduction. However, after being dismissed from her job and no longer able to work in the healthcare industry she was now packing clothes in a warehouse.

Ms Whalley said: "She has lost her good character. She has lost her employment. She has been struck off by the Royal College of Nursing."

Judge Simon Medland QC fined Benitez £300 and said unless she paid it in full by October 31 she would be jailed for seven days.

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Judge Medland said: "You behaved completely out of character by crossing a line from carer to touching one of your patients in a way which was inappropriate and unwelcome.

"Mitigation in this case is that you have pleaded guilty, you have lost your good character and much of the punishment has already been inflicted upon you.

"Because of that and because you have been struck off and this prevents you working where you have before I take the view the proper sentence here is a fine."

In a statement released after the hearing, Debbie Richens, area manager of the Rochcare Group, said: "An incident occurred where by Annabelle Benitez who was employed by Gill Healthcare as an agency worker, was due to commence work on the morning of Sunday 19th August 2018.

"Rochcare’s protocols when using an agency worker are to obtain a staff profile which includes the confirmation of a DBS check, the confirmation of the right to work in the UK and previous training records amongst other personal details.

"The profile was received at the home from Gill Healthcare prior to Anabelle’s shift on Sunday 19th August 2018.

"The documentation confirmed Anabelle had received training in; Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity, Accountability, Appearance and Behaviour in the Workplace as well as other mandatory training topics including but not limited to; Fire Safety, Infection Control and Moving & Handling.

"Rochcare protocols require that any agency worker under go’s an induction at our Rochcare homes by a senior member of staff and this includes requirement to read the Care Needs Summary section of resident’s care plans, ensuring that the agency worker is paired up with an experienced member of the Rochcare team for the duration of their shift.

"Although we aim not to use agency care staff, on rare occasions it is inevitable to cover any staff vacancies or absences to provide full support for the resident’s.

"Rochcare has worked with Gill Healthcare and have previously found they provide a good calibre of staff who are conscientious

"Despite all of our safety protocols, this incident sadly occurred, Rochcare’s staff acted promptly and appropriately and have been highly commended for their actions which contributed towards the safety of the residents, this was also confirmed by the Lancashire Constabulary.

"Upon discovery of the incident, the senior carer removed Anabelle Benitez and prevented contact with any residents before contacting the duty manager who took statements from all involved before removing Anabelle Benitez from the premises. The duty manager then alerted the following organisations; Gill Healthcare, Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire County Council Safeguarding Team and CQC."