Fallon inquiry: Inspectors criticise regimes at Britain's top-security sites

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SINCE 1980, Britain's three top-security mental hospitals have been subject to critical reports.

There have been two for each institution, Broadmoor in Berkshire, Rampton in Nottinghamshire and Ashworth in Merseyside.

Broadmoor, which was founded in 1863, holds 443 patients at a cost each of pounds 93,000 a year, including Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

In 1988 the Health Advisory Service and Social Security Inspectorate said "time was running out for a hospital largely without direction displaying all the faults of a total custodial institution and housed in grim Victorian buildings". That was followed in 1993 by an inquiry into the death of Orville Blackwood and two other black patients at Broadmoor.

Rampton was founded in 1912, and holds 448 patients at a cost each of pounds 96,000 a year, including nurse Beverly Allitt.

In 1980 a report by Sir John Boynton condemned many features of its organisation and practice and in 1989 a follow-up inquiry found continuing grounds for serious criticism.

Ashworth, which was founded in 1933, holds 456 patients at a cost each of pounds 105,000 a year, including the Moors murderer, Ian Brady. In 1992, a report by Sir Louis Blom Cooper uncovered a "brutalising regime" in which patients were abused and humiliated by staff.

The Government ordered an internal review of high security care by Dr John Reed. Published in July 1994, it recommended a cut in the size of the special hospitals and the transfer of patients to smaller units. Ministers shelved the main recommendations.

Yesterday a report by Peter Fallon said senior managers were "totally unable to control the institution" and it should close. It was reprieved by Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health.