Doctor knew girl visited child-killer

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A SENIOR doctor at a secure hospital yesterday defended the way she and her colleagues had handled the visits of a child to patients held there.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Zona Crispin told the inquiry into the Personality Disorder Unit (PDU) of Ashworth Special Hospital in Merseyside that she and another senior doctor had given instruction that nurses should supervise the visits.

Dr Crispin told the hearing at Knutsford Crown Court, Cheshire, that she had been aware that the girl, referred to as child A, was visiting convicted child killer Paul Corrigan on Lawrence Ward.

She denied having knowledge of the child spending time with convicted paedophile Peter Hemming on the same ward where she was a Responsible Medical Officer.

The inquiry has been told by patients and nurses that they had expressed concerns about physical contact taking place between Hemming and child A.

Some patients have alleged that the girl, who started visiting the ward as a baby with her father, an former patient, was sometimes dressed only in her underwear. They include Stephen Daggett, whose allegations about child A and the availability of pornography, drugs and alcohol on Lawrence Ward led to the inquiry.

Dr Crispin said yesterday: "I wasn't aware that she [child A] was visiting Mr Hemming. I thought that she and her father were visiting Mr Corrigan."

She told the hearing that neither Corrigan nor Hemming were her patients so she did not have knowledge about them despite the fact that child A's visits were discussed by the staff team of which she was a senior member. During meetings of that team at which she was present, said Dr Crispin, the issue of child visiting was discussed.

She told the hearing: "I would certainly want to make sure they [children] were safe when they visited, as with all visitors."

Dr Crispin said that it was made clear that the visits of the girl should be supervised and that physical contact should not take place between any child and the patients.

She added that it was not until July 1996 that she and the team were made aware that there had been any complaints about inappropriate behaviour during the girl's visits.

Dr Crispin, under cross-examination, told the hearing that there had never been any written policy which mentioned the issue of physical contact.

The other senior member of the Lawrence Ward team, Dr Ian Strickland, had earlier told the hearing that problems experienced throughout the PDU were made worse by lack of resources, the recruitment of untrained staff, too many patients housed in wards too large for successful treatments and remote hospital management.

The inquiry heard that Dr Strickland, who was suspended by the hospital 15 months ago when the allegations about Lawrence Ward first came to light, was criticised following inquiries into the murder of a patient in his care, and a hostage-taking incident.