Secure hospitals are not penal institutions | Letter

Very few patients in high secure hospitals have convictions for anything as horrible as Ian Brady’s crimes, and some have no criminal conviction at all, writes Mat Kinton

While unpacking the myth of the she-devil (The long read, 2 October), Helena Kennedy unfortunately reiterates a different myth. It is incorrect to say that Ian Brady “served his sentence in a penal institution for the insane until his death”. From his transfer from prison in 1985 to his death, Brady was in hospital for treatment: hospitals are not penal institutions, and it is unhelpful to talk of “serving a sentence” in one. Were such treatment to have concluded or determined to be of no further use, Brady would have been transferred back to prison to serve his sentence.

It is disappointing to see Baroness Kennedy conflating prisons and the high secure hospitals. The difference is meaningful to the hundreds of patients who are treated in the hospitals, and to the people who work with them. Very few patients in the hospitals have criminal convictions for anything as horrible and notorious as Brady’s crimes, many were not sentenced to imprisonment and have never been in prison, and some have no criminal conviction at all.
Mat Kinton
National Mental Health Act policy adviser, Care Quality Commission

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