Historic hearing begins into Broadmoor patient seeking his freedom

His legal counsel argued his problems stemmed from being detained for so long for a relatively minor offence

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A Broadmoor patient who has spent nearly 25 years behind bars is still a danger to himself and the public according to testimony given during the first ever mental health tribunal to be heard in public.

Albert Haines, 52, is seeking to be discharged from Broadmoor Hospital after nearly a quarter of a century detained under the Mental Health Act at high- and medium-security facilities. He insists that doctors misdiagnosed him and that he would pose no threat to the public if he were to be released.

But Dr Jose Romero-Urcelay, a forensic psychiatrist at Broadmoor's personality disorder ward, told a tribunal yesterday that Mr Haines was still in need of psychiatric help – although he admitted he could feasibly be released within two years if he agreed to treatment.

"My clinical view is that Mr Haines is presenting with paranoid psychosis, in the sense that his preoccupation with the injustice he believes the psychiatric system has caused him is out of proportion with reality," Dr Romero-Urcelay said. "He believes that we are persecuting him".

The tribunal, the first of its kind to ever be heard in public, is at the centre of a legal landmark case which was brought by Mr Haines against Britain's best-known high-security hospital.

He was first brought to Broadmoor in 1986 after pleading guilty to two counts of attempted wounding. In 1992 he was moved to Three Bridges, in Ealing, a medium-secure unit where he spent 16 years before being moved back to Broadmoor after a series of confrontations with staff.

After losing faith in the mental health system he began – and won – a campaign to have his tribunals heard in public. The result is a two-day tribunal hearing which began yesterday in which members of the press and public were able to attend for the first time.

The case allows those outside the mental healthcare system a rare glimpse inside the hidden workings of Britain's high-security hospitals and how psychiatrists decide whether someone remains a threat. The tribunal heard how over the past two decades numerous doctors had given Mr Haines different diagnoses, causing him to lose faith in the psychiatric system and seek public arbitration.

Dr Romero-Urcelay, his treating clinician, admitted psychiatry was an ineaxct science but said the intention of him and his staff was always to keep people "for the minimum required time".

"We are not a precise science," he said. "We don't have a blood test or an X-ray." He also said it was unusual for someone to be detained as long as Mr Haines, stating that only one in 20 Broadmoor patients have been locked up for more than two decades. Mr Haines' legal representation argued that many of his problems have stemmed from being indefinitely detained for so long for a comparatively minor index offence. Aswini Weereratne, representing Mr Haines, pointed out that he had not killed anybody and argued that "to spend 25 years as a result of these incidents seems disproportionate".

In a statement given to the tribunal, Mr Haines explained: "I am labelled as having a mental disorder which I do not accept. So long as I am in a psychiatric setting I will be seen as a patient who needs treatment. Everything I do or say will be interpreted on this basis."

The hearing continues today.

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