Psychiatric patient is first to have his appeal held in public

Psychiatric patient is first to have his appeal held in public

By Liz Lockhart

Mental Healthy does not, generally, report on court cases which involve crime that has been committed by individuals with any form of mental health condition.  We believe that such reporting can perpetuate the fear and bias that surrounds mental health.  However, the case of Albert Haines is different and one that we should be aware of.

Mr. Haines is the first psychiatric patient to have an appeal against detention open to the public.  This action has made legal history this week.

In the past seven years there have been about 100,000 mental health tribunals in England and Wales.  They are always held in private to protect patient confidentiality.  Haines won the right for an open hearing in February when a tribunal ruled that he was entitled to do so under section 6 of the European convention of human rights.

This hearing offered a rare glimpse into the usually hidden world of Broadmoor Hospital, the Berkshire high-security psychiatric institution.  Members of the press were given full access to the proceedings and were allowed to openly report on them for the first time

Albert Haines has been detained at Broadmoor and at a medium secure unit since being convicted of two counts of wounding in September 1986.

Haines, 52, launched his bid for freedom before a panel of three in a basement room off London’s Chancery lane.    He is appealing to be released under strict conditions.  He is arguing before a mental health tribunal that he poses no risk to the public.

Haines’s case is that his earlier criminal behaviour was the effect of childhood abuse and that no acceptable counselling has been offered during his detention to help him deal with this.  He claims he wants an open hearing to expose alleged failings in the mental health system.

The tribunal was told that Haines disputes a diagnosis of paranoid psychosis and personality disorder.  He also disputed that he has refused any treatment or to engage with staff at Broadmoor.  He believes his discharge is ‘in the moral public interest’.

Dr. Jose Romero-Urcelay, Haines’s senior clinician is arguing for his continued detention.  He said that Haines was ‘delusional’, believed he was a ‘victim of the system’ and that staff were out to ‘sabotage’ his hearing.

Dr. Romero-Urcelay said that Haines had suffered deprivation and childhood abuse.  He later abused cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines and alcohol.  The senior clinician added that Haines, believing he was being persecuted and the victim of conspiracy, was threatening towards staff.  He claimed that if Haines was released without treatment his behaviour could put himself at risk.

Romero-Urcelay said that Haines had responded to antipsychotic drugs in the past but now refused to take them, and that ‘this mental health tribunal has taken over his entire existence’.

The tribunal was told that not all doctors who had seen Haines have the opinion that he has paranoid psychosis.  ‘Why would Mr. Haines have confidence if the doctors are all thinking different things?’ asked Vikram Sachdeva, counsel for Broadmoor. 

‘We are not a precise science.  We don’t have a blood test or an x-ray that will give you a diagnosis.  There is no MRI scanner to detect mental illness,’ replied Romero-Urcelay.

Aswini Weereratne, Haines’s counsel said ‘He didn’t kill anyone.  He didn’t physically injure anyone.’  She added that his behaviour towards staff at Broadmoor could possibly be explained by the fact ‘he is in a place he desperately doesn’t want to be and he’s angry at being there’.

The hearing continues. 

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