Theory into Practice

This post seeks to show the theory of many things I’ve written about, operating in practice:

Christopher HAUGHTON from Wembley has today been found guilty of attempting to murder PC Tom HARDING and PC Alastair HINCHCLIFF in Kingsbury, North West London. He was also convicted of two offences of causing GBH with intent and two of ABH in connection with the same incident in November 2011 after attacking several other officers who arrived in support of their colleagues.

Already remanded to Broadmoor Hospital, the judge has indicated he will be detained there without limit of time when he is sentenced later in the week – this is a section 37/41, Restricted Hospital Order.

Presumably, Mr HAUGHTON has been remanded to hospital after his conviction under s36 MHA, which provides for the remand of convicted but unsentenced prisoners to hospital.

This case is interesting to highlight for a range of reasons, all amplifying in practice, points I have made previously on other blogs:

  1. Although seriously unwell, assessed as having paranoid schizophrenia, he was still able to be held responsible in law for his violent actions.
  2. He has not been found ‘unfit’ for anything or legally ‘insane‘, but has been fully convicted by a jury – mental illness is not an automatic defence to criminal liability. He could have chosen to run an ‘insanity defence’, but this is not often attempted precisely because, where successfully done, it would lead almost certainly to the same outcome: a s37/41 Restricted Hospital Order.
  3. This case shows, that even where an arrested suspect is “suffering from mental disorder of a nature or degree” that makes detention in hospital appropriate, it does not follow that an offender must be diverted without charge. Where the evidence exists and where the public interest exists, prosecution can occur – insanity is an issue for the defence to raise if they believe it is relevant – not one for the prosecution to proactively rebut.

An officer has asked on Twitter why Mr HAUGHTON was diagnosed only after the attack; and why not before it? I don’t know – of course it is possible that he had never come to the attention of the NHS mental health system before but that is speculation and I’m trying to find out more. We do know that he had been arrested before: he had previously been remanded by the police and was on bail from the courts for a previous attack upon police officers, in October 2011.

I’d be really interested to know whether that previous arrest had led to any referrals to mental health system or whether he was assessed for mental health issues at the time, perhaps in whilst in police custody. << We should remember, that whether or not he had been assessed, it does not follow that anything was ‘missed’. Everyone’s mental health fluctuates over time. Maybe we’ll learn more in due course.

Detective Inspector Keely SMITH, the Senior Investigating Officer, remarked upon how the officers continued to detain Mr HAUGHTON despite knowing the extreme threat he had begun to pose, including directly to them.  PC Tom HARDING has stated that he feels he owes his life to his colleagues: “I owe my life to the bravery of my colleagues. I cannot praise them enough for their courage in what was a harrowing ordeal. I believe they represent the finest officers of the Police Service and it is an honour to serve among them.”

The judge, after sentencing Mr HAUGHTON to a Restricted Hospital Order, said, “It seems appropriate to draw to the attention of the Commissioner the court’s appreciation of the very considerable courage of the three police officers.  All three acted in a very difficult situation with very considerable courage and the public is in their debt.”

I’m sure we all wish the officers a speedy recovery from their injuries and thank them for their undoubted bravery.  We should not forget, though – the very real potential for psychological injury which may yet to be felt. << Who Protects The Protectors?

UPDATE >> On 17th January 2013, it was announced that the Metropolitan Police would roll out wider deployment of tasers and this occurs following a long review of this particular incident as well as broader exmaination of other officer safety incidents.  Here, the officers equipped with handcuffs and a protective vest; some CS spray and an aluminium tube.  Police incapacitants are not-infrequently found to be ineffective where police officers are dealing with people under the influence of drugs or alcohol and / or where they are believed to be suffering serious mental health problems.

Winner of the President’s Medal,
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award


All views expressed are my own – they do not represent the views of any organisation.
(c) Michael Brown, 2012

I try to keep this blog up to date, but inevitably over time, amendments to the law as well as court rulings and other findings from inquests and complaints processes mean it is difficult to ensure all the articles and pages remain current.  Please ensure you check all legal issues in particular and take appropriate professional advice where necessary.

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