QC to argue Bottomley's bed case

Click to follow
Indy Politics
Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, will be represented by a Queen's Counsel at a Crown Court tomorrow after a judge summonsed her as a witness because no secure bed could be found for a female defendant.

The decision for the QC to appear on Mrs Bottomley's behalf at Chichester Crown Court follows a private meeting between her and Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, on Tuesday evening. Mrs Bottomley had sought his advice in the light of a growing number of cases in which judges or magistrates had sought to call her to appear because secure hospital beds were not available for severely mentally ill patients.

On Friday, Mrs Bottomley's QC will question the legality of calling the Secretary of State in the case of Sharon Towes, 27, accused of stabbing a man. Ms Towes has been in Holloway prison, north London, because no suitable bed was available.

Last week, during the seventh court appearance of Ms Towes, Judge Thorpe said it was "quite unacceptable" that she should have been held in a prison and became the first judge to issue a summons for Mrs Bottomley to appear.

However, South Thames Regional Health Authority announced on Monday that a hospital bed had now been found for Ms Towes in a medium secure unit. Yesterday, Worthing magistrates who had considered calling Mrs Bottomley to appear, agreed that Mark Dwan, accused of hitting a doctor, should be assessed for mental health at Lewes Prison, East Sussex, where he is being held.

Last year in two similar cases, judges threatened to bring Mrs Bottomley to court, but the defendants concerned were then found suitable accommodation.