HC Deb 23 October 1961 vol 646 c548
23. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement following the consideration he has given to the report of the South Western Regional Hospital Board on the reclassification of Ronald Derek Sowle.

27. Mr. McLaren

asked the Minister of Health whether he has now received a report from the South Western Regional Hospital Board following their inquiry into the reclassification of Ronald Derek Sowle.

Mr. Powell

I will circulate the conclusions of the Board of Inquiry in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am placing copies of the Report in the Library.

Mr. Dodds

In view of the fact that a very unfavourable impression was given by the remarks of Mr. Justice Stevenson, could the Minister say whether the report will indicate that there was every good reason why Sowle, because of his previous good conduct, should be given his liberty? Could he also tell us why there should be any doubt, because should he be a menace either to himself or anyone else there are powers under the Mental Health Act under which he could be compulsorily detained?

Mr. Powell

No doubt, hon. Members will study the full conclusions, as set out in the OFFICIAL REPORT, but perhaps I might quote one sentence from them: Our investigation shows, and it is our opinion, that there was no foreseeable risk that Sowle would be likely to be a source of danger to anyone.

Following is the information:

CONCLUSIONS OF THE REPORT OF A BOARD OF INQUIRY CONSISTING OF MR. H. E. PARK, Q.C. (Chairman), DR. DESMOND CURRAN, C.B.E., F.R.C.P. AND MR. J. R. MACKIE, C.M.G.. B.SC. In the course of our inquiry, we received much evidence, both oral and written, to which we have not referred in this report. We have, however, investigated with care all the available evidence on all the incidents in Sowle's life which could possibly give rise to the view that he was in April 1961, a potential danger to the public. We have summarised that evidence in the course of this report. The only incident which might reasonably have given rise to the suspicion that Sowle might be a potential danger is the incident of alleged knife brandishing in September, 1953, discussed in paragraph 8 of this report. But that incident and the other minor incidents of misconduct to which we have referred must be considered against the overwhelming body of evidence which established clearly that, since 1955, Sowle was well-behaved and not given to any kind of violence nor subject even to outbursts of temper. While out on parole and while living at Berwick Lodge, Sowle had mixed freely with the public and, up to the 27th April, 1961, had proved himself to be someone who could be trusted to behave properly while outside the hospital. Our investigation shows and it is our opinion, that there was no foreseeable risk that Sowle would be likely to be a source of danger to anyone. Our findings are as follows:—
  1. (1) Dr. Walker was right in his opinion that Sowle on the 24th April, 1961, was suffering from subnormality and that that mental disorder was not of a nature or degree which warranted Sowle's detention in a hospital for medical treatment;
  2. (2) Dr. Walker, in recording this opinion pursuant to paragraph 7 (3) of the Sixth Schedule of the Mental Health Act, 1959, correctly followed not only the provisions of the Act itself but also the recommendations of the Royal Commission and of the Ministry of Health.
  3. (3) The circumstances in which Sowle was reclassified as an informal patient on the 24th April, 1961, have no relevance whatsoever to the commission of the crime of which he was found guilty."