Hospital `let a girl of eight play with sex offender'

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The Independent Online
A paedophile was allowed to play with a young girl, pornographic videos, drugs and alcohol were widely available; conditions at Ashworth Secure Hospital were a "woeful tale that should not have been allowed to happen". As the official inquiry into the Merseyside hospital begins, Glenda Cooper, Social Affairs Correspondent, reports a "sorry saga" of security breaches.

An eight-year-old girl was allowed to play unsupervised with an Ashworth Special Hospital patient who had been convicted of sex offences against children, an inquiry was told yesterday.

She was brought in by a former patient, known as Mr Y, who is suspected of supplying pornographic videos to patients in the Personality Disorder Unit. Staff have been unable to say if she was sexually abused.

The inquiry was ordered in February this year after Stephen Daggett, another patient, made allegations about the activities in the unit at the Merseyside hospital where drugs and alcohol were widely available to some of the most dangerous patients in the country.

John Royce QC, counsel for the inquiry, said that the inquiry must search for a "constructive solution" for caring for such patients. "Serious questions need to be asked how this state of affairs arose and how it was allowed to continue," he said.

There had been a succession of reports since 1990 when two inmates were killed within months of each other.

Stephen Daggett had escaped during a visit to Liverpool after managing to draw pounds 1,500 from a bank and building society accounts.After agreeing to return, Mr Daggett had made a number of allegations about the availability of porn, drugs and alcohol in his ward, Lawrence Ward.

A hospital inquiry was set up and discovered 41 hard core porn videos on sale in the ward shop, said Mr Royce. More than 800 other videos were discovered on the ward, 225 of them alone in one patient's room. There was evidence that 700 or so had been recently wiped or had some traces of pornographic recording. Videos depicting bestiality, sadomasochism and child pornography were found.

The internal inquiry concluded that the man known as Mr Y, the former patient who brought the child in, was the main person responsible for bringing in pornography. His car had been allowed in without being searched.

An earlier inquiry had found an "El Dorado of scams and security breaches". One prisoner had been found to be running a number of businesses from his cell after obtaining a credit loan worth thousands. These included a computer trading company, a mail order fraud and a travel business called Dream Break Ltd.

His computer was found to contain "several hundred" letters he had sent to women after placing ads in lonely hearts columns.They went into graphic detail about the domination and submission of women.

The hearing continues today.

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