Letter: Killers at large

Sir: Perhaps Dr Stephen Hopker (letter, 15 January) and the other no doubt clever and educated people who share his view would think differently if one of the "nutters" and "psychos" he mentions had murdered one of his or their loved ones.

No one of any sensitivity at all wishes to see mentally ill people needlessly locked up, but neither does anyone want the brutal and unnecessary death of innocent people who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is a sad fact that in recent times such deaths have occurred because a psychiatrist or other person who "knows" about such matters has made an error of judgement resulting in a homicidally dangerous patient being at large in the community.

Dr Hopker points to a reduction in the number of such homicides; I suggest that if one of the victims had been close to Dr Hopker, he would consider that to have been one murder too many. I would say to Dr Hopker that whilst all of us who are not psychiatrists do not think of the mentally ill as "nutters" or "psychos", we do all wish to be free of a fear of being murdered by a patient who has been judged by the good doctor or one of his colleagues to be fit to be at large.