Violent patient `needed to commit assault to get help'

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The Independent Online
A dangerous mental patient was released into the community because only by committing a crime could he receive the treatment he needed, it is claimed.

In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, a hospital worker is suing his health authority after he was attacked by the patient, Maurice Badkin, with an iron railing within the hospital grounds.

Simon Wilson, an administrator at St Crispin's Hospital, Northampton, is claiming the hospital had a duty of care to protect its staff. The case reconvenes at Northampton County Court today.

Mr Wilson says he can never forget 14 April 1989. "I was walking down a corridor when I heard breaking glass," he said. "I saw a person I'd never seen before carrying an iron railing. He walked past me and I said `what are you doing?' He carried on and said `Get back', which I did.

"He was 20 feet away when he turned and swung the railing above his head, shouting `I told you to get back' and step-ped closer to me, bringing down the railing with almighty force.

"At the moment of the attack, I thought `How can you do this to another human being?' and in that instant I decided logically, without emotion, that I would not let him kill me."

Mr Wilson managed to take most of the blow on his forearm, the force being enough to snap the diving watch he was wearing. His forehead needed seven stitches and he suffered severe headaches for weeks afterwards. The major problems, however, were psychological.

The consultant forensic psychiatrist who prepared reports for court said Mr Wilson was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and that his quality of life had been "permanently diminished" by the assault.

Mr Wilson is convinced that the essential issue of his case rests on whether the staff responsible for Mr Badkin's care should have granted him unsupervised parole.

It was known that Mr Badkin had a long history of violence and was on medication suitable for someone suffering from schizophrenia. A day before the attack, he had become angry and agitated after an argument with a fellow patient and had expressed delusions.

A month earlier, Mr Badkin's doctors were considering sending him to Rampton, a maximum security hospital. But they believed it would not accept Mr Badkin in his condition. In his medical notes of 24 March 1989, the doctors concluded: "Otherwise, we will have to wait until he can be charged with some serious offence and be brought before the court."

Dr Peter Wood, the consultant forensic psychiatrist who appeared as an expert witness, said: "It seems that at least part of the thinking of those looking after Mr Badkin was to allow him enough freedom to give him the opportunity to offend seriously so that further methods to control his behaviour could be taken."

But the hospital denied there was any intention to release Mr Badkin in order for him to com- mit a crime. Dr Albert West, consultant psychiatrist at St Crispin's, told Northampton County Court earlier this year that the comment in the medical notes meant "at the end of the line, it is a matter of sadness that this may be the ultimate event. There was no plan or plot on my behalf to allow this to happen."