Tim Kendall: Psychiatrists must get under his skin and into his soul

Share
Related Topics

At this stage, we're not talking about Fritzl being treated so he will not offend again. The psychiatrists will be assessing him to see if he's got any serious underlying mental illness, such as schizophrenia, and if he does not, then they'll come to the same conclusion as the psychiatrist who has already assessed him: that he is a very rare and very serious type of psychopath.

The psychiatrists' job will be to assess him through a series of extensive interviews and observation. They will watch carefully how he interacts with other patients – if indeed he is able to mix with other patients – and also observe what he is like when he is in solitary confinement.

In that sort of situation, you can't judge a person: your job is to establish whether they have an underlying illness and, if so, how best to help them. It's not your job to punish them, it's to act as an impartial but engaged psychiatrist. That will mean getting under his skin, getting into his shoes and getting into his soul – it's not always a very pleasant thing to do with somebody who is so disturbed, and can awaken strong feelings in you.

If they do find an underlying psychotic illness, there's no doubt he'll spend the rest of his life in a psychiatric hospital, but I think it's very unlikely that this will be the case. By all accounts he's simply somebody that most people would call a psychopath, or to use an even more common term, "evil".

There is a remote possibility the assessments so far have mistakenly not found an underlying mental problem, but to my mind, if they establish that he is merely a psychopath (ie that he is not suffering from any mental illness which would have meant he had no control over the way he acted), he deserves to be put in a normal prison, just like any other criminal.

In some ways, I think it's a terrible shame to mix up psychiatry with this, because it's not necessarily the issue. He has done some absolutely heinous things and in court he gave his reasons why, saying he was mistreated by his mother as a child. So it's no coincidence that he decides, when his daughter is ready to leave home, to overpower her and treat her in the way he wished he'd been able to treat his mother. He is very disturbed, but that's why most people do evil things: because bad things have happened.

What he did was awful, but we should be asking social questions as well as psychiatric ones. Why, for a quarter of a century, was he was able to live in this way without anybody noticing?

The writer is a consultant psychiatrist and deputy director of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' Research Unit

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

£22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A picture posted by Lubitz to Facebook in February 2013  

Andreas Lubitz: Knee-jerk reaction to 9/11 enabled mass murder

Simon Calder
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, presides at the reinterment of Richard III yesterday  

Richard III: We Leicester folk have one question: how much did it all cost?

Sean O’Grady
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

The US is getting frayed at the edges

Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

Celebrating 100 years of Leica

A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world