My Lords, is it fair that in the case of Moors murderer Ian Brady, Mersey Care—in other words, the hospitals on Merseyside—had to spend £181,000 in a mental health tribunal? A further £92,000 then went to Brady’s lawyers, RMNJ Solicitors, along with thousands more to Scott-Moncrieff—more defence lawyers. Why should the taxpayer pay these exorbitant fees on a pointless appeal when law centres all over the country are being run down and CABs are being starved of resources? What are these lawyers doing for all this money?
In this particular case, the entire process took almost three years and culminated in an eight-day tribunal hearing. This is a legal process and the trust had no option other than to comply; neither did the Legal Aid Agency.
My Lords, I was present at the trial of Brady at Chester Assizes in 1966, where he was represented by my noble friend the late Lord Hooson. He did not plead insanity at his trial. Indeed, he served some 19 years in an ordinary prison. It was a decision of the prison authorities to send him to Ashworth hospital, where he tried to commit suicide by starving himself to death. He was force-fed, and the purpose of his application to be transferred back to an ordinary prison was so that he could starve himself to death without being force-fed.
Since the cost in Ashworth was well over £250,000 a year, was not the money well spent even if the decision went the other way?
My Lords, it is very difficult to find much sympathy for Mr Brady, although it has to be said that he has been judged to be medically ill. Our law says that in those cases the mental health review tribunal is part of the process of our legal system and that a patient is entitled to a tribunal hearing, as set out in Part V of the Mental Health Act 1983. We cannot have one law for those we find worthy and another law for those we do not like. In some ways, it is the fact that Mr Brady has the protection of the law that should give reassurance to the rest of us.
My Lords, to go back to my noble friend’s point, surely, given the size of the cost to the local mental health service, it ought to be helped out by the Department of Health.
My Lords, I asked that question during the briefing. It is an almost unique case. I think that there have been only two such cases in recent times. I am speaking off brief at the moment, but it seems unfair that a single health authority should take such a disproportionate hit on something that is really a national matter. However, the rules as they now apply are that the Ministry of Justice takes the state costs through the Legal Aid Agency and the health authority concerned takes the hit with regard to costs. The noble Lord makes a valid point and I will take it back to a probably not overenthusiastic Health Minister.
My Lords, will the Minister take another suggestion back with him as well? We have three special health authorities of which Ashworth in Merseyside is just one; we also have Rampton and Broadmoor. The potential for high-profile cases in any one of those hospitals to impact on local health trusts is enormous. It would be really helpful if there were a way for a special allocation of funding to be made that did not impact on those mental health patients who do need care and attention.
That is the value of this exchange. I will take that suggestion back. This is not a responsibility of the Ministry of Justice—as I say, the Legal Aid Agency is responsible for the legal costs on that side—but, as it now stands, those three health trusts are liable. I will report back to the Health Secretary and see whether this could be looked at. I hope that this will remain an almost unique case but, as the noble Lord indicates, there is a possibility that another such case will arise so we should look at this.
My Lords, does the mental health review tribunal come into this picture? I was proud to be a member of that tribunal, serving regularly in sessions at Broadmoor. Surely the tribunal should come into the picture, including the financial side of things. Examining Brady could come under its financial services.
I shall look at that point. However, as the rules now stand, it is the responsibility of the health authority looking after that patient. As I say, though, this exchange reveals that that may put too much of a burden on a single authority, and I shall certainly ask my right honourable friend to look at the matter.