Re-open Carstairs to women, urges top psychiatrist

Theresa Riggi: sent to England. Picture: Deadline News
Theresa Riggi: sent to England. Picture: Deadline News
Share this article
Have your say

SCOTLAND’S high-security State Hospital should re-open its doors to women, according to one of the top forensic psychiatrists in the country.

The State Hospital at Carstairs, which has housed only men since 2011, should re-open a ward for women who need high-security care, according to Dr John Crichton, the chair of the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry for the Royal College of Psychiatrists in ­Scotland.

His comments represent a major U-turn by psychiatrists.

The State Hospital closed its doors to women after its then chief executive Andreana Adamson said women should not be subject to high levels of security because they pose less of a risk than men.

Crichton has waded into the issue in a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s health committee, which is reviewing mental health laws.

Women, including child killers, used to be treated at the State Hospital. Currently women who commit crimes or who are deemed a serious risk because of mental health problems are sent to medium security units or sent to a high-security psychiatric unit in England.

Crichton has demanded a review, saying women needing high security care would be better served by a unit in ­Scotland.

Recent cases include that of Theresa Riggi, who killed her three children in 2010 in Edinburgh in a custody battle with her former husband. She was sent to Rampton Secure Hospital in the West Midlands as part of her 16-year jail sentence. She had previously spent time at the medium- security Orchard Clinic in Edinburgh and Cornton Vale Prison. Riggi died of pneumonia at Rampton in March.

In his submission, Crichton told MSPs: “With the State Hospital at Carstairs closing a male ward there would appear to be the ideal opportunity to revisit the arrangement that high-security female patients are transferred to Rampton Hospital in the English East Midlands.”

Crichton said that Scotland’s mental health legislation offers more safeguards to patients and women moving to England are placed under English mental health laws. Another problem was that women on remand in Scotland cannot leave the country – meaning before transfer to England they have to be put in medium security hospitals such as the Orchard Clinic, which is “disruptive” to its regime.

A Scottish Government spokesman said yesterday: “There have been very small numbers of women who would require detention in high-security units in recent years.

“It is neither safe nor clinically viable to offer a highly specialist service to such small numbers. Were that to change, we would of course review this as it is our position it is preferable to accommodate such patients in Scotland where possible.”

Killers: Hospital’s female patients

• Allison Campbell, 26, was sent to the State Hospital after killing her six-year-old son by throwing him off the balcony of her 14th-floor flat in Glasgow. Campbell spent months being assessed at the State Hospital before being sent to prison for five years for culpable homicide.

• Ann Dunn, 36, was also sent to the State Hospital after battering her five-year-old daughter to death with a hammer and severely injuring another child. Dunn admitted culpable homicide and was diagnosed with suffering from a severe form of depression.

• Jennifer Ann Byrd, 50, was held at the State Hospital in 2004 after killing her frail mother and taking £20,000 from her bank account.