Clunis inquiry confined to last 6 months

Click to follow
The Independent Online
DETAILS of the official inquiry into the random killing at a London railway station by Christopher Clunis, a paranoid schizophrenic released from hospital under the Care in the Community programme, were announced yesterday, writes Rosie Waterhouse.

The inquiry, ordered by the Department of Health, will be organised by the North-east and South-east Thames regional health authorities. Clunis was in contact with hospitals in those areas in the six months before he killed Jonathan Zito, a musician.

The inquiry will look at the circumstances surrounding the admission, treatment, discharge and continuing care of Clunis from his transfer into NHS care from Belmarsh prison in May 1992 until his arrest the following December. The report will go to the chairmen of the two authorities by the end of the year and then be made public.

Clunis was sent to Guy's Hospital from prison after allegedly stabbing a former cellmate in the neck. He was discharged a month later and transferred to be an out- patient at Friern Barnet Hospital.

The inquiry's scope was dismissed as 'totally inadequate' by the solicitor representing Zito's widow, Jayne. 'We are not happy with the remit because it is not going to allow the inquiry to look at all the facts. We don't just want to look at the last six months before the killing. Clunis was diagnosed six years before as a schizophrenic and the failure of the Community Care programme has to be considered against that history.'

After Clunis pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility on 28 June, Mrs Zito called for a public inquiry to answer why her husband had died. The Government rejected that despite a personal appeal by Mrs Zito in a meeting with Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health.

An Independent investigation found omissions, failures and buck-passing by authorities supposed to be caring for Clunis over the past six years.

The inquiry will be chaired by Jean Ritchie QC, a Recorder on the Western circuit specialising in medical negligence cases. The panel will include Dr Donald Dick, a retired consultant psychiatrist, and Richard Lingham, director of social services for the Isles of Scilly and a Mental Health Act Commissioner.

Policy in confusion, page 5