ANALYSIS of statistics of deaths in custody over the last decade in Scotland, England & Wales appear to show hundreds of campaigners, including people who had been pursuing genuine grievances against professions, public services including the Police & Local Government, and the justice system, have died in a trending pattern after being detained for lengthy periods of time in mental institutions & prisons.
Insiders who have come forward to the national media claim many of those now deceased, whose deaths have been explained away as either down to natural causes, freak accidents, or self harm & suicide, “were detained on trumped up charges or reasons completely removed from their actual circumstances, to mask the true nature of their predicament”.
Particularly strong evidence is now coming to light through the sheer scale of deaths in custody and the lack of independent inquiries into such cases that the apparatus of mental welfare detention and prison has been used to thwart campaigners & individuals attempts either to campaign for change in a particular area of law or public life, or to prevent details of what happened to them emerging in the mass media.
Scotland appears to fair no better than England & Wales in the emerging scandal, and unsurprisingly evidence for the real reasons for detention of campaigners north of the border appears to be hard to come by, as documents show in some recorded cases, most mental health ‘professionals’ cases have taken dim views of individuals who have been campaigning on an issue or who have pursued professions & public services in the courts.
In one case under current study, a family member who attempted to pursue a hospital for medical negligence over the death of another family member at a Scottish hospital, was scheduled to be sectioned by the same area health authority for a lengthy spell in custody, simply in order to prevent litigation taking place in the courts and curtail extensive headlines & criticism in the media of the hospital’s actions. The claims against the hospital in this particular case included claims of negligence involving well known surgeons in particular areas of medical practice who are now known to have caused deaths of patients in additional cases in the same hospital.
In the Scottish case, the grieving family member was only saved from what could have been a lengthy incarceration and what has been referred to by a now retired health professional as “almost certain death in custody”, after a high profile newspaper journalist got wind of the story and began making inquiries into the circumstances of the death and criticisms of how the hospital allowed the patient to die.
Recently, another case has come to light in the media, where a leading schizophrenia campaigner died while in hospital in North London in 2010 and the results of an internal inquiry into the death, which, unsurprisingly exonerated the hospital, has not been made public. Similar cases are occurring in Scotland with little publicity so-far …
The Guardian reports :
Anger as hospital's internal inquiry into death of leading schizophrenia campaigner Janey Antoniou not made public
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 26 May 2012 23.47 BST;
Mental health campaigner Janey Antoniou, photographed in 1999. Antoniou died in 2010 at a hospital in north London. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian
Campaigners are fighting for investigations into the deaths of mental health hospital patients – of which there are on average one a day in England and Wales – to be independent and open to scrutiny.
The move follows an inquest into the death of Janey Antoniou, a leading mental health campaigner who had influenced many organisations including Mind, the Royal College of Psychiatry and Rethink Mental Illness.
Janey, 53, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 30. She campaigned tirelessly, acting as an advocate for those using mental health services and becoming a trainer with services such as the police. She died in 2010 in her room at Northwick Park hospital in Harrow, London.
The jury at an inquest earlier this month found that her death was inadvertent "following self-harming by use of ligature". While the jury commended staff for trying to "build sincere and trusting relationships" with her, it was highly critical of other issues, including the hospital's risk management.
An investigation was conducted by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, the same trust that had responsibility for Janey's care. Its findings have not been made public. Objections made by her husband, Dr Michael Antoniou, over lack of independence were rejected by the trust. This is now the subject of judicial review proceedings.
There were 3,628 deaths in mental health detention (501 self-inflicted) between 2000 and 2010, accounting for 61% of all deaths in state custody. The proportion of deaths recorded from "natural causes" is also exceptionally high.
Antoniou's judicial review is funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. "Anyone detained against their will in an institution is in a very vulnerable situation," said John Wadham, the commission's general counsel. "An independent investigation would ensure that anyone culpable is identified and dealt with, and lessons are learned that could reduce the chances of other people dying."
Since 2004, deaths in police custody have been investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), while deaths in prison are investigated by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO). In both instances the family is closely involved: a liaison officer is appointed, written updates are provided, and the investigation report and underlying documents are disclosed.
In his judicial review statement, Dr Antoniou says the trust did not keep him informed, interview him or his family, or ask for any input from him. He was told the trust would not be disclosing documents, nor did it offer any support or advice. The experience left him "dazed" and "distressed".
Paul Bowen QC, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers who appeared for Antoniou at Janey's inquest and has acted for a number of families in similar circumstances, said: "It is plainly not possible for a trust to be, and to be seen to be, 'independent' in investigating a death which may have been caused or contributed to by failures of its own staff or systems."
An article 2 investigation must be initiated by the state, independent, effective, open to public scrutiny, reasonably prompt and involve the family. Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity INQUEST, said: "This is a blatant injustice. Too many deaths of very vulnerable people are not being properly investigated by a number of trusts. They are not being held to account. More rigorous robust and transparent investigations play a critical role in learning lessons to safeguard the lives of others."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "The coroner's inquest is the place where an independent assessment is made of the circumstances of the death of an inpatient."