Albert Haines, the Broadmoor patient who made legal history by becoming the first person to have his mental health tribunal heard in public, has lost his bid for freedom after a panel of judges ruled that he still posed a threat to himself and the public.
The 53-year-old Londoner has been detained in secure hospitals for the past 25 years and says he has lost faith in a system that he believes has failed to heal him. He was sectioned under the mental health act in 1986 after he pleaded guilty to trying to attack staff at Maudsley psychiatric hospital with a machete and a knife.
In recent years his relationship with Broadmoor Hospital’s psychiatrists deteriorated to such an extent that last summer he took the highly unusual step of instructing his lawyers to request that his mental heath tribunal should be heard in public. Usually such hearings are held behind closed doors because they contain sensitive medical information about the patient.
Broadmoor hospital fought the application but the tribunal service recognised that he had the capacity to wave his confidentiality and ordered a fully open hearing to which both the public and press could attend. It was held last month over two days but the judgment was only released this morning.
In it the panel of three judges ruled that the nature of Mr Haines’ personality disorder meant he could not yet be released into a medium secure hospital or into the public.
The tribunal heard evidence from treating clinicians, hospital staff, Mr Haines himself and independent experts who painted a complex picture of his time at secure facilities.
Following his conviction he was sent to Broadmoor but was later moved to the medium security Three Bridges hospital where he made a number of visits into the community without incident. However, after a confrontation with staff, he was returned to Broadmoor and has since refused treatment in the belief that he no longer suffers from a personality or mental disorder. His lawyers argued that his trust in psychiatrists has been repeatedly dented by forced medication and numerous competing diagnoses over whether he has a mental disorder on top of his personality disorder.
The judges criticised Broadmoor for putting Mr Haines through a number of recent ward changes which they described as upsetting and “extremely unhelpful”. But they also added: “In our judgment the frequency and intensity of the incidents of irrational, hostile, abusive and aggressive behaviour cannot simply be explained by understandable frustration at the length of detention or by a reaction to ward moves”.
The tribunal heard how Mr Haines was regularly abusive and hostile towards hospital staff and was often the victim of physical assaults from fellow patients who would take exception to his confrontational nature.
The judges said they were powerless to offer treatment advice to Broadmoor but they urged staff nonetheless to “find a pathway” for Mr Haines so that he might feel like eventual release was a possibility. “He needs to be offered a clear pathway and to understand that progress through engaging with the treating team will provide that pathway,” they said.
The judges concluded: “It is in nobody’s interest that Mr Haines should have to be detained, whether in high or medium security, for a day longer than absolutely necessary. In our judgment detention does remain necessary, and we conclude by observing that it is likely to remain so unless the treating team are able to find a way of engaging Mr Haines, and that this will require an equal commitment by Mr Haines himself.”
Kate Luscombe, Mr Haines’ lawyer, was on her way to speak to her client this morning. She said she had already been instructed to appeal the decision.
“Mr Haines is disappointed that in assessing degree the First–tier Tribunal did not attach more weight to his argument that it is his mis-diagnosis, the duration of his detention, an attempt by those who treat him to re-introduce anti psychotic medication (including a forced injection under emergency powers) and enforced environmental factors that gives rise to his frustration and confrontational behaviour within the hospital setting,” she said.
She added: “A hospital order is not a punishment, its purpose is to ensure that an offender receives the medical care they need in the hope that the result will be to avoid the commission of further criminal acts. The aim of treatment is rehabilitation so the patient may return to society, rather than long term incarceration. After 25 years and an apparent failure in that time to treat Mr Haines’s challenging behaviour so that he remains in high security, the question arises as to whether the process of assessment and treatment has promoted the objective of rehabilitation.”
A spokesperson for West London Mental Health Trust, which runs Broadmoor hospital, said: "We're pleased that this process has reached its conclusion due to the extra burden its being public has placed on the Hospital's resources. We note that the decision concurs with the recommendations of Broadmoor Hospital's own, as well as independent, clinicians about the best treatment environment for the patient at this time. We also note the Tribunal's suggestion on 'finding a way in to treatment' to help the patient move forward in his life, and, as with all our patients, we will continue to seek ways of helping him to engage in order to progress his recovery."
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in