Ministers refuse to close secure hospital hijacked by paedophiles

THE DISASTROUS failure of a top-security mental hospital to control some of Britain's most dangerous criminals was revealed in a report yesterday that described how it became an outpost of the pornography industry.

Ashworth hospital on Merseyside, which houses 456 mentally disordered patients including the Moors murderer Ian Brady, became a centre for the copying and distribution of hard-core porn in which an eight-year-old girl was being "groomed for paedophile purposes", according to an inquiry.

Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, painted a chilling picture of an asylum taken over by its inmates, which left MPs shocked and dismayed. He described it as a "shameful story of confusion, indecision, mismanagement and incompetence". But he rejected the key recommendation in the 600-page report of the public inquiry team under a judge, Peter Fallon QC, to close down Ashworth, and by implication its sister hospitals, Broadmoor and Rampton, "at the earliest opportunity".

It emerged, however, that Ashworth could be broken into smaller segregated units. The inquiry report, which included 55 recommendations, is also likely to lead to sweeping changes in the law, including new powers to allow the Secretary of State to sack NHS staff, and tougher controls over patients with personality disorders.

The nine-month pounds 7.5m inquiry - triggered by allegations from Stephen Daggett, a convicted child abuser who absconded from the hospital in 1996 - found pornography was "widely available", security was "farcical" and the whole unit "deeply flawed". The inquiry said the hospital was dominated by "clever and manipulative" inmates.

Mr Fallon - who said the whole system was "rotten" - concluded: "The hospital's negative, defensive and blame- ridden culture is so deeply ingrained that we doubt even the most talented management team could turn it around. Ashworth hospital should close at the earliest opportunity."

He said: "The management culture of the hospital was dysfunctional. Senior managers were secretive, out of touch and totally unable to control this large institution. We therefore have no confidence in the ability of Ashworth Hospital to flourish under any management. It should close."

But Mr Dobson told the Commons that the institution's problems were not those of "bricks and mortar" but of management and gave the hospital four months to turn itself round.

The first heads to roll yesterday were Paul Lever, chairman of the Ashworth Hospital Authority, and Anne Marie Nelson, former chairman of the Special Hospitals Service Authority and chairman of the High Security Services Commissioning Board. Twenty three members of staff named in the report could be sacked or face professional disciplinary action. A former admiral in the Royal Navy, Ian Pirnie, chairman of the Morecambe Bay health authority, was appointed to take over the authority.

The most disturbing part of Mr Fallon's report described how an eight- year-old girl was smuggled into the hospital between 1994 and 1996 "weekend, after weekend" by her own father, a former inmate of Ashworth who is now prevented by a court order from contact with her.

"The child at the centre of the paedophile allegations was, in our view, being groomed for paedophile purposes. This is a disgraceful situation in what was supposed to be a hospital, and a high-security hospital at that," said the report.

Yesterday the Government secured a court order to protect the girl's anonymity. Mr Dobson told MPs: "I have checked. She seems to be doing pretty well. She is living a settled life."

The report found that drugs and pornographic videos were freely available; the father of the girl brought pornographic videos into the hospital; several patients had credit cards and were able to borrow large sums of money; and a machine for embossing share certificates was uncovered - leading to the uncovering of "scams and money-making ventures in the personality disorder unit". A confectionery and soft drinks stall for patients saw turnover in 1996 soar from pounds 50 a month to pounds 14,000.

Members of the inquiry team were clearly disappointed with Mr Dobson's refusal to close Ashworth. They have recommended that patients with personality disorders are treated in smaller separate units away from other mentally ill people and have advocated wide-scale reform of what they called a "rotten" system.

Asked how he felt about Mr Dobson's decision, Mr Fallon would only say: "Frankly, we disagree ... If Ashworth and other special hospitals continue to be structured and run as they currently are, we envisage the problems will return."


Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
peopleLynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance moves audience to tears
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

Arts and Entertainment
Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree is to be made into a series of films

Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree really is being made into a movie franchise

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon


Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Deputy Head of Science

£36000 - £60000 per annum: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client are a we...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Database Administrator

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: The role could involve w...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified secondary s...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London