HC Deb 28 January 1981 vol 997 cc423-4W
Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if his review of leave arrangements for special hospital patients has been completed; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Ronald Sailes was convicted in May 1980 of the murder of a young girl while he was on leave from Broadmoor hospital. As I stated in reply to my hon. Friend on 4 June 1980—[Vol. 985, c.696–98]—following his conviction, I asked for urgent consideration to be given to what lessons could be learnt from this case. The review of arrangements for sending patients on leave, which was not confined to Broadmoor but covered the four special hospitals in England, was carried out by officials of my Department and the Home Office in consultation with staff at Broadmoor and the other special hospitals. I accept the review team's conclusions and have placed a copy of its report in the Library of the House.

As well as looking closely at the arrangements made for Ronald Sailes's leave, the review team collected information about the use of leave for other patients. Its report concludes that, while no improvements in leave arrangements could guarantee that a similar tragedy will never happen again, some lessons can be learnt for the future. The review team has appended to its report a set of guidelines on the main steps to be taken when a patient is sent on leave. The guidelines cover consultation within and outside the hospital about the proposed leave, the passing of information to relevant agencies and individuals, the selection of a suitable hostel for a particular patient, and the arrangements for supervising patients on leave. The team has suggested that these guidelines should be made available to the special hospitals for their immediate use, and that they should then be reviewed after a period of time in the light of comments from the hospitals and their experience of using guidelines.

One particular question considered in the review was whether the police should always be alerted to the presence in their area of a patient on leave from a special hospital. It is already Home Office practice to notify the police when a restricted patient—one who is subject to special restrictions set out in section 65 of the Mental Health Act 1959—is sent on leave. The review team has recommended that the police should also be notified of leave arrangements, unless the responsible medical officer is satisfied that there are social circumstances which make this inappropriate, for patients who, though not now restricted, have previously been subject to restrictions, as Sailes had—and for patients who, though never subject to restrictions, have been convicted of a serious sexual or violent offence—there will be very few, if any, of these, because a patient with such a conviction will almost certainly have been subject to a restriction order; with other unrestricted patients the police should not normally be notified unless the responsible medical officer is satisfied that there are special reasons for doing so.

I shall be arranging for the report and appendices to be sent to the special hospitals as the team recommend and will be considering how its conclusions can best be made known to other interested agencies and organisations.