JOHN CHURCHILL, the patient who wanted 24-hour care

At the end of March 2006 John Churchill was discharged from the Abraham Cowley Psychiatric Unit in Chertsey Surrey. Within 48 hours he had killed John McKenna. Two days later he went to the police and and confessed. He has been in custody since then, currently under Section 48 of the 1983 Mental Health Act and in a Cambridge Hospital. As someone said: "He wanted 24-hour care and now he's got it". The trial will start on 19 March 2007.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

No trial for John Churchill.

At the hearing Monday, 19 March, at the Old Bailey - after he had been in custody for nearly a year - John was sent back to the secure hospital where he had been since October where he will be detained indefinitely under Sections 37 and 41 of the 1983 Mental Health Act.

How much has been spent so far on this case and how much will it cost to keep John in the secure hospital?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Trial starts tomorrow, 19 March 2007

Central Criminal Court
Old Bailey
LondonEC4M 7EH
Tel 020 7248 3277 (Ask for Listings Office for starting time and court number)

Click here to view a map

The nearest tube station is St Paul's (follow the signs to Old Bailey)

I will be attending and writing on this blog as the case proceeds.

I knew John for several years but have not seen him since he was charged with the murder last March.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trial starts on 19 March 2007

At the trial and case management hearing today at the Old Bailey, the date for the start of the trial was set for 19 March 2007.

There is great deal of news coverage of the report into the killing of Denis Finnegan by John Barrett.
The Times leader says:

The schizophrenic state
Denis Finnegan should never have been murdered

Once again we are forced to read that a brutal killing was caused by a “cumulative failure” of state institutions. This time it is not a parole board but a mental health trust and tribunal that have been exposed as a danger to the public which foots their bills. It is clear that John Barrett, a paranoid schizophrenic, should never have been free to kill Denis Finnegan in Richmond Park in 2004. The question is why no one has ever been disciplined for this lapse and why the secure unit involved has been allowed to blunder on.

The independent inquiry by South West London Strategic Health Authority into the care and treatment of Barrett is devastating. His conditional discharge by a tribunal came barely a year after he had almost killed a man, in the absence of his medical officer and in opposition to the wishes of the Home Secretary. His psychiatrist’s decision to give him an hour’s leave from the secure unit at Springfield Hospital was “fundamentally flawed” given his history of violence. And “too much confidence was placed in clinical judgments unsupported by evidence and rigorous analysis”.

This murder came barely a year after another schizophrenic from the same hospital beat a nurse to death, and the year before two more of its dangerous patients went on the run. The St George’s Mental Health Trust, which is responsible for the hospital, claims to have improved its pro- cedures. The inquiry categorically doubts whether the trust has the capacity to remedy its deficiencies. This clear difference in opinion demands investigation by the Home Office.
There are wider lessons here, too. Murders by the mentally ill are not uncommon: there have been more than 300 inquiries into such murders since 1994, when Jonathon Zito’s widow campaigned for these inquiries to be made automatic. Yet the mental health charity SANE believes that one in three of these homicides was preventable. Its analysis of 69 inquiries into homicides by the mentally ill found that, in half the cases, mental health professionals simply ignored warnings from family and friends. This was certainly true in the Barrett case, where his partner had become alarmed.

The Barrett inquiry describes a culture that values “engaging” with dangerous patients over protecting the public — despite clear Home Office guidance to the contrary. It describes an almost wilful lack of communication and supervision by professionals, which campaigners say is common in units where eminent psychiatrists may spend half their time on teaching and research.

The Barrett inquiry states that a lack of resources and legislation is not the problem. But it seems likely that government targets do contribute to the reluctance of mental health professionals to admit patients to hospital, and to keep them there. Crisis resolution teams are dedicated to keeping people out of hospital, which is expensive and indeed is often disconcerting for the patient. But when success in psychiatric care is defined as the number of days not spent as an in- patient, risks will inevitably be taken. Barrett should not have been discharged in 2003, and should not have been readmitted in 2004 only as a voluntary patient. Tragedies happen when tribunals and professionals act on partial information that suits their own sometimes too optimistic view of a complex world.
From The Times leader, 17 November 2006

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Plea and Case Management

Tomorrow, 17 November, at in Court 2 there will be a "plea and case management" hearing for John Churchill at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) London EC4 - nearest tube is St Paul's, follow signs to Old Bailey. Map here .

This means that a plea will be entered by the accused and decisions made as to how the hearings will proceed.

John Churchill was arrested and charged with killing John McKenna in March this year, after he had gone to the police and confessed; he has been in custody awaiting trial since then. He is currently under Section 48 of the 1983 Mental Health Act in a Cambridge hospital.

(Section 48 - if the Secretary of State receives from two registered medical practitioners reports stating that the person detained in custody is suffering from a mental condition within the criteria of this Section, that person may be transferred from prison to a hospital for treatment.)

A few days before the homicide, Mr Churchill had been discharged as an inpatient of the Abraham Cowley Psychiatric Unit in Chertsey, and he was under the care of the Surrey & Borders Mental Health Health Partnership NHS Trust .


Today, 16 November, the 400 page plus report of the independent inquiry into the killing of Denis Finnegan in September 2004 by John Barrett has been published. John Barrett is currently in Broadmoor Special Hospital. At the time of the homicide he was an inpatient of Springfield Hospital, run by South West London and St George's MentalHealth NHS Trust . The Trust's Executive Summary of the report (34 pages) is here .

The Guardian's story - Care flaws allowed schizophrenic to kill, report says .

Also today, we have the announcement of the amendments to the 1983 Mental Health Act which are concerned with the legislation to introduce more powers to detain patients.

The Mental Health Alliance has issued this statement today:

Mental Health Alliance response to publication of Barrett Inquiry report Commenting on the publication of the John Barrett Inquiry report, Mental Health Alliance Chair Andy Bell said:

"This Report demonstrates that what often lies behind the rare and tragic cases such as the murder of Denis Finnegan is that mental health services can fail those in their care and that there is no need for the Government to be granted broader powers of compulsory detaining people in the guise of protecting the public, as they are currently seeking with reform of mental health legislation. The answer lies in investing in better services, that give staff the support they need to do their job and are more responsive when patients say they need help. It is a hard truth that sometimes professionals make mistakes and no system in the world can prevent that happening in every instance."