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Safeguarding Failures Leave Vulnerable Adults at Risk

The disturbing case of a man found murdered in his home has highlighted the importance of taking meaningful steps to safeguard vulnerable adults at risk of abuse.

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Joseph O’Hanlon, 61, was beaten to death in his Rochdale house.

A safeguarding referral had been made to the local authority by his ex-partner nearly two years prior to his murder, following concerns that he was being financially exploited by “drinking associates” who visited his home.

The case highlights the need for the wide and robust safeguarding powers available to local authorities under the Care Act to be used in thorough and practical ways which provide genuine support for those at risk of abuse or neglect.

Rochdale Safeguarding Adults Board found professionals had been in contact with Mr O’Hanlon 128 times since the initial safeguarding concerns were raised. Days before his murder, Anthony Bennet, Mr O’Hanlon’s killer, was at the house when officers went to visit.

Despite investigations finding the services to be “reasonable” and “excellent”, the Board’s review of steps taken to deal with safeguarding concerns suggested that if Mr O’Hanlon had been a child ‘there would have been a much greater expectation in relation to the information that followed from that visit and what was then recorded on both police and local authority systems’.

As a result, Rochdale Safeguarding Adults Board has urged authorities to consider how adult safeguarding procedures could be more like those in place for protecting children at risk.

The Board recommended that those investigating safeguarding concerns consider assessing the care needs of vulnerable people under the Care Act.

It also called for greater contact with local banks in order to recognise any risk of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults and to take steps to protect them.



Richard Copson is a principal lawyer in Slater and Gordon’s court of protection team, specialising in mental capacity law, disability rights and human rights law.

For a consultation with a human rights solicitor, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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