Officials `blocked report on killing'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Department of Health tried to suppress the recommendations of a report on community care which said the 1983 Mental Health Act is "obsolete" and should be replaced, sources close to the inquiry have told the Independent.

Pressure to withdraw or delay publication of the final chapter of the report, published yesterday, was put on the authors who conducted a public inquiry into the killing of Georgina Robinson, an occupational therapist, by Andrew Robinson (no relation), aparanoid schizophrenic patient at the Edith Morgan Centre psychiatric unit attached to the Torbay District General Hospital.

The sources said senior officials at the department made it plain that ministers felt that the timing was not right for a review or a complete overhaul of the act. The authors of the report refused to withdraw or change their recommendations. Two of the

three authors, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and Professor Elaine Murphy, have recently retired as chairman and vice chairwoman of the Mental Health Act Commission.

The inquiry found that Georgina Robinson, 26, died in October 1993, after being stabbed 12 times in the neck, and the attack was "predictable and preventable". The killing was "random, motiveless, senseless".

Her killer, Andrew Robinson, a detained patient who had a history of violence, was allowed out on leave in breach of the law. He was able to buy a knife with which he killed Georgina.

The report identified a catalogue of failures and lapses in the community care system from when Robinson was first discharged from a restriction order after leaving Broadmoor hospital, where he was sent in 1978 after attempting to shoot a female student with whom he had become obsessed. (Robinson was sent back to Broadmoor maximum security hospital after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter last March.)

Although the report places responsibility for key failures on management and staff, it does not recommend any disciplinary action.

Parliament is soon to be debate a government proposal to modify the act by introducing a supervised discharge order to monitor seriously, mentally ill patients after discharge from hospital.

The report says the supervised discharge order amounted to "tinkering", which would not produce the fundamental change of philosophy needed to make community care work.

The report, "The Falling Shadow: One Patient's Mental Health Care 1978-1993", makes "preliminary" proposals for a "compulsory, comprehensive care plan", which would designate where a patient should live; and confirm a specific care plan agreed by health and local authorities to provide income support, training, education and social care, but specify treatment, such as medication, and where it should be administered. If a patient failed to take medication, he or she could be compelled to do so.

Anthony Boyce, chairman of the trust that commissioned the report, told a press conference yesterday that everyone bore responsibility for Georgina's death but no one would be forced to resign, be disciplined or sacked.

But Gordon Robsinon, Georgina's father, said that senior management of the trust should resign. And Wendy Robinson, Georgina's mother, said she was "absolutely appalled" that Robinson had the freedom to come and go almost as he pleased, and was not searched even after he had threatened suicide. "They were worried about his civil liberties. What about Georgina's?" she said. "They gave him his liberty and in doing so they took away Georgina's."

An avoidable death, page 3

Leading article, page 13