Families blame deaths on government policy

Glenda Cooper reports on pleas by victims' relatives for something to be done
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The Independent Online
The father of Stephen Laudat yesterday said his son and the man his son killed were both victims of a "redundant" government policy which had failed "those in need of care and the wider community".

Angelo Laudat, 53, said his condolences went out to the family of the victim, Bryan Bennett, who was 56 when he was killed. But he added: "My son needed secure care and a high degree of medical attention. He received neither. The responsibility for that lies with the Government."

Kim Bennett, Mr Bennett's daughter, speaking at a news conference to launch the inquiry's report, asked how many more killings it would take before the Government invested in mental health services.

She called for more hospital beds, more emergency facilities and more funding for social service workers. She pointed out that money was currently being used to counsel victims' families in the aftermath of such tragedies. Ms Bennett said she feared that the "eye-opening" report would, like others before it, result in no action.

"How many deaths will it take before something is done?" she added.

"My father was stabbed 82 times, 27 times in the face ... My brother and I had to witness this to identify his body. Are the authorities still forgetting what the victims' families have to go through? My family have been caused much grief ... It's time the Government realised their policies of community care are not working."

Ms Bennett could not understand how Mr Laudat had been allowed to leave hospital after a ward manager had voiced concerns that he could be a danger to himself and others.

"Why did no one listen to the one person who saw him every day?" she asked.

"I don't think any one person was to blame but I believe a few different people contributed to his death," she added.

Other women who had suffered similar tragedies turned up to support her. They included Wendy Robinson, whose daughter Georgina was stabbed at the Edith Morgan Centre in Devon in September 1993; Sandra Sullivan, whose daughter Katie was killed at a rehabilitation centre in London; and Jayne Zito who set up the Zito Trust, after her husband, Jonathan, was murdered by Christopher Clunis,

Mrs Zito blamed a lack of communication between government departments in planning the policy of care in the community for the confusion of health and social workers in the Laudat case.

"We have homicides occurring because nobody will take ultimate responsibility for those people who are a risk to themselves and others," she said.