Sunday, July 29, 2007
Wasteful and Callous
There is a man in prison in London as I write. He is severely mentally ill, and speaks no English at all. He is charged with assaulting two people, but his solicitor, even with an interpreter, is unable to communicate with him. He is of course in the hospital wing of the prison where I understand that he is being decently treated. The consensus is that he needs to be transferred to a secure mental health ward. In a grotesque game of pass-the-parcel two mental health trusts are arguing about which one of them will take him (the prison being in one trust's area, the location of the offences in another). We were told that this will take at least two weeks, and more likely four, to sort out, and in the meantime he remains in prison. The public will eventually fund his care but while officials squabble over which pot to take the money from he is being cared for in prison, at a cost that probably far exceeds that of a mental unit. My colleagues and I made full enquiries in open court and we found that there is nothing at all that we can do about it, and that this is a situation that occurs quite often. Frustrated by our inability to achieve anything in the case, we remanded him back into custody.