Hospital bed found for child abductor

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The Independent Online
(First Edition) A secure hospital bed was found yesterday for a mentally impaired prisoner - 24 hours after a judge threatened to bring Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, to court to explain why one could not be provided.

Judge Bruce Laughland QC made the threat at the Old Bailey on Thursday, saying he was 'scandalised' that no bed had been found for the man, who had been held in custody in Brixton Prison since February.

He was dealing with Stephen Hart, 34, a cleaner from Stepney, east London, who kept a boy of eight captive in a wardrobe for two days without food or water. Hart was described as a 'child in an adult body'.

Judge Laughland said the situation was a disgrace, and it was outrageous that resources were not available to provide protection and treatment.

Sentence was postponed for a fortnight. The judge said that if by then no secure hospital unit had been found, he would 'take such steps in my power' to make Mrs Bottomley attend court and answer questions.

Yesterday, North Thames Regional Health Authority said a bed had been allocated at a secure unit, which catered for people with learning disabilities and mental illness. Arrangements for Hart's transfer from Brixton to the unit in St Albans, Hertfordshire, would be made on Monday.

Hart was convicted of abduction and false imprisonment. The court was told he had a previous conviction in 1988 for abducting a boy and holding him for two hours. He was then placed on probation for three years.

The judge said it was essential that a proper psychiatric hospital place be found so that Hart could be treated and hopefully cured.