Mental health tribunal publishes first-ever panel ruling

The first psychiatric patient to have an appeal against detention held in public today lost his legal battle to be freed from Broadmoor Hospital.

Albert Haines, 52, made legal history when he successfully argued that his case should be considered at an open hearing.

But a mental health tribunal ruled that the nature or degree of his mental disorder meant he should not be released from the high-security psychiatric institution.

Haines was convicted of two counts of attempted wounding in September 1986 after he armed himself with a machete and a knife and tried to attack a doctor and a nurse at the Maudsley psychiatric hospital in Camberwell, south London.

Since then he has been detained under the Mental Health Act at Broadmoor in Crowthorne, Berkshire, and at Three Bridges medium secure unit in Ealing, west London.

The tribunal heard that he did not think there was anything wrong with him and believed his discharge from Broadmoor was “in the moral public interest”.

But it also received evidence from Dr Jose Romero-Urcelay, Haines’s responsible clinician, who argued that he remained a risk to the public and to himself.

The mental health tribunal panel’s ruling, the first ever published, criticised Broadmoor for repeatedly having moved Haines between wards this year, which it described as destabilising and “extremely unhelpful”.

The panel concluded: “Plainly these tribunal proceedings, being greatly extended by the issue of whether the hearing should be in public, have dominated Mr Haines’s life in the last two years or so, really to the exclusion of everything else.

“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.”

An estimated 100,000 mental health tribunals have been held in the past seven years, but out of these there were only 10 applications for the hearing to be held in public.

Only one previous application for an open session was granted – and the permission was subsequently withdrawn.

Judge R J McGregor-Johnson, who headed the three-member tribunal, ordered that the full decision should be published although a written representation to the tribunal “on behalf of Mr Haines” had said that while the effect of its decision should be made public the reasons for it should not.

The judge said in a post-hearing direction: “In this submission, reasons are given as to why disclosure of the decision itself should be permitted, but no specific reasons are given as to why the tribunal’s written decision should not be reported.”

Broadmoor had said that it had no objection to the decision being disclosed if the disclosure was limited to the phrase “The patient shall not be discharged from liability to be detained”, he said, adding: “No reasoning is included in support of this position.”

The judge went on: “In my judgment it is important to bear in mind firstly the reasons given by the Upper Tribunal in directing a public hearing, and secondly what actually happened at the public hearing. Mr Haines’s desire for a public hearing, he having the capacity to make that decision, automatically carried with it the loss of the shield preventing publication of his name.

“The decision to order a public hearing, with the press free to attend, removed the shield from the publication of any other names of those involved or of any of the evidence.”

The Upper Tribunal had taken into account the possible effects on Haines of possibly negative publicity, and also found that there was “some heightened public significance” because of the nature of Haines’s case.

Judge McGregor-Johnson went on: “In the event, the hearing was attended by a number of press representatives. The entirety of the evidence was given in public, and was extensively reported on, including not only Mr Haines’s name but also the names of those giving evidence on behalf of the hospital, and some details of the medical evidence.

“Part of Mr Haines’s concerns which led to the granting of a public hearing related to his treatment and diagnosis, and at times his case both in his evidence and in the cross-examination of the hospital’s witnesses involved criticism of the way he had been treated.

“To the extent that it was necessary to do so in order to come to a decision, the tribunal has considered those criticisms.”

Judge McGregor-Johnson went on: “In my judgment, given the extent of the publicity already generated, and the element of heightened public significance already identified, it is in the interests of justice that not only the effect of the decision itself but also the reasons for it should be made public.

“Any issue of a possibly adverse effect on Mr Haines has already been taken into account by the Upper Tribunal in granting Mr Haines’s application for a public hearing.”

He ordered that the full written decision should be made public seven days after the parties received the direction.

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