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

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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness