Hypnotist cleared over schizophrenia

PAUL MCKENNA, the hypnotist, did not transform a man into an "aggressive schizophrenic" on one of the television star's live stage shows, a court said yesterday.

High Court judge Mr Justice Toulson ruled that hypnotism did not cause schizophrenia.

The judge dismissed a pounds 200,000 damages claim brought by Christopher Gates, an unemployed french polisher, against Mr McKenna, which alleged that his stage show at a High Wycombe theatre in March 1994 triggered the onset of the illness.

Mr Gates, 30, of High Wycombe, said the show, in which he took part for more than two hours, left him fearing for his life, too scared to take a shower and hearing secret commands broadcast from the television soap Coronation Street.

Friends and colleagues said he became moody and unpredictable - giggling when told he might lose his job - and he was subsequently admitted for a month in a psychiatric unit where schizophrenia was diagnosed. He lost his job in 1995 and has not worked since. Mr Gates had blamed this chain of events on Mr McKenna's show when he was hypnotised to speak in an alien tongue, could see people naked and was attacked by an animated broom.

This was rejected by Mr Toulson who decided his schizophrenia was organic in nature and not a result of suggestion.

He said it was "perfectly understandable" that Mr Gates should have believed that his sudden descent into schizophrenia was caused by his hypnotic experience but his "misfortune in developing the disease" was of "natural origin".

The ruling was welcomed by Mr McKenna, who estimated that the case had cost him pounds 1m in lost business and sponsorship. He will continue filming for his next television series.

He said later: "While we feel great sympathy for Mr Gates and his family, the verdict has proved conclusively that hypnosis was not and could not have been the cause of his schizophrenia."

He said the judge's conclusions would "bring an end to the series of alarmist sensational stories about hypnosis being dangerous".

Martin Smith, solicitor for Mr Gates, said in a statement: "With three eminent professionals, one of them at the cutting edge of research into what happens to the brain during hypnosis, concluding that Chris's illness was triggered by what happened on stage, we thought we had enough to win.

"[The judge] set great store by the fact that there was no evidence before him of similar cases. For legal reasons we were unable to put before the court details of several other cases, none involving Mr McKenna, with which we are dealing, in which other people allege they have suffered damage after taking part in hypnotic shows."

Had they been able to do so, he said, "the outcome might have been quite different. The judge has found that Chris's illness was not triggered by the hypnosis, but he did not find that stage hypnosis is safe".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
News
James Corden’s social media footprint was a factor for CBS
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Communications Executive

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - London, £60k

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - Central London, £60,000...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness