Two scandals: The death of Ann Marie Smith in Australia and the Whorlton Hall scandal in Britain

Dr Alan Hough1

1Purpose At Work Pty Ltd, Franklin, Australia

This paper examines the latest scandals of abuse and neglect of people with disability in Australia and Britain, namely the death of Ann Marie Smith (Annie) and the Whorlton Hall scandal. Although Annie did not have intellectual disability, her case is relevant because some of the lessons for safeguarding apply to all people with disability. Whorlton Hall was an Assessment and Treatment Unit for people with autism and/or intellectual disability. The paper will examine institutional responses to the scandals, and especially those of legislators and regulators.

The facts of both cases are established from the formal reports and records of legislators and regulators about the scandals, supplemented by media reports. Using thematic analysis, institutional responses to the two cases are compared, with an emphasis on identifying lessons that can be shared.

Drawing on the academic literature on regulation, the paper argues that regulatory design involves a series of trade-offs. Due to these trade-offs, it is inevitable that regulation will not be able to prevent every instance of abuse and neglect. Nonetheless, it is important to identify lessons for the prevention and the correction of abuse and neglect. The analysis is, in part, informed by work on ‘blame games’.

The paper identifies lessons for legislators, regulators, advocates and scholars in attempting to prevent and correct abuse and neglect.


Alan Hough is a Director of Purpose at Work and developed the program ‘Right on Board: Governing and managing for human rights, quality and safeguarding’. He combines his academic knowledge with extensive practical experience of quality and safeguarding in disability service provision.