Letter: Beverly Allitt: the necessity of a public inquiry and a syndrome that can be used as an excuse

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The Independent Online
Sir: A great deal of attention, rightly, will be focused on the culpability of those who allowed Beverly Allitt to become and to continue as a nurse. However, an equally important issue, which may be lost from sight and which is relevant to all criminal behaviour, is that of the offender's responsibility.

Does the Munchhausen syndrome mitigate or excuse? Does the fact that a crime is committed by an alcoholic justify leniency in punishment? What about PMT? Every crime is committed as a result of psycho-psychological processes. These, in turn, result from hereditary or environmental factors over which the offender may have had no control.

So, is no one responsible for anything they do? Does anyone calmly and objectively decide to be antisocial? What is the nature and role of unconscious motivation in criminal activity?

It is vitally important that these questions be addressed. Until we can find the answers, attempts at crime prevention will be rendered ineffectual by the continuing argument between those who lay the blame for bad behaviour on social deprivation and those who regard it as an expression of personal evil. But let us beware that we do not allow our own unconscious or conscious fears to influence our analysis of this problem.

Yours sincerely,



The writer is a psychotherapist.