Bottomley sends judges a list of `accountables'

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Indy Politics
Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, yesterday continued in her efforts to stop judges asking her to appear before them to explain hospital bed shortages, writes Celia Hall.

Letters from the Department of Health were sent to all area justices' liaison committees listing appropriate senior regional health authority officers who should be contacted instead. Mrs Bottomley has also appealed to the Attorney General for help.

The moves follow the decision by Judge Anthony Thorpe to summon Mrs Bottomley to appear as a witness at Chichester Crown Court in the case of a seriously disturbed woman described as a potential killer.

No medium-secure hospital bed could be found for her and the court had earlier asked Mrs Bottomley for an explanation. Last week, a bed had been found before the hearing at which Mrs Bottomley was due to appear.

Mrs Bottomley was represented by a solicitor, Paul Hampton, who said that she believed it was inappropriate for her to be called over an individual case. Judge Thorpe ruled that as a bed had been found it was not necessary for her to appear. But he reserved the right to call her again if necessary.

The letter to the justices' committees is intended to help the courts, a DoH spokesman said yesterday. It gives details of administrators in the eight health regions who should be contacted if bed problems arise.

Mrs Bottomley faced two similar cases last year and this year a Worthing magistrate has also threatened to call on her to appear.