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

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £40,000

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Contracts / Sales Administrator

£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Engineer - Powered Access

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...

Recruitment Genius: Pharmacy Branch Manager

£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

General election 2015: Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence