`Dangerous' patient freed by court ruling

A hospital yesterday had to set free a patient diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia - even though doctors say he is too dangerous to be released into the community.

The authorities were left with no choice after a High Court judge ruled that Alan Williamson, jailed for six years in 1988 for attempted rape, cannot be detained against his will without a special court order, which could take weeks to obtain.

Mr Justice Tucker said the problem arose after the patient's nearest relative, his father, George, from Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, refused to co-operate with doctors over his son's continued detention in a secure unit at Winterton hospital, Sedgefield, near Stockton.

Cleveland County Council's social services department failed last year to start in time special county court procedures that would have enabled the authority to take over the role of "nearest relative" and keep the 36-year-old patient in hospital.

Mr Williamson's social worker, Megan Wilson, obtained a 28-day detention order as a "stop-gap" until the county court application went through. But it was the second "assessment" order of its kind, and such "back-to- back" orders were not legally valid, the judge ruled.

He said: "I wish to make it plain that I do not impute any improper motives either to Miss Wilson or to the managers. They found themselves in a difficult situation where they were not receiving co-operation from the nearest relative, and while they were anxious not to release into the community a patient who might be a danger to himself and to others." The judge said he hoped the application to get a "nearest relative" order "will be speedily resolved".

Len Wilson, chief executive of South-west Durham Mental Health Trust, said Mr Williamson had been told he was free to go. "As a consequence he decided he wished to go home."

Asked about the risk the patient might pose to others, Mr Wilson said: "I cannot comment on his clinical condition."

David Behan, Cleveland's director of social services, said: "Obviously we are deeply concerned . . . We hope that it will be possible to complete the [nearest relative] application under Section 29 of the Mental Health Act as quickly as possible. In the meantime, we hope to maintain contact and support to the individual and his family and still hope that they will consider the wisdom of his remaining in hospital as a voluntary patient at this stage."

Mr Justice Tucker allowed Mr Williamson's application for judicial review against social service moves to continue detaining him.

The judge described how, after he was jailed for attempted rape, Mr Williamson was discharged in 1992, but re-admitted to hospital as an informal patient in February 1994.

When he again tried to leave last October, doctors considered the move "inappropriate" and detained him under section 5 of the Mental Health Act. His father did not consider that he required compulsory admission.

A consultant forensic psychiatrist recommended that Mr Williamson stay in hospital "for treatment" as an informal patient, but that could only happen with his consent, the judge said.

The consultant suggested that, if he would not agree, Mr Williamson should be compulsorily detained "as a last resort" under section 3 of the Act. The problem was that Mr Williamson's father objected and was able to block the move.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living