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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Inside Rampton Hospital
Rampton secure hospital
Rampton is home to 400 patients
School caretaker Ian Huntley had already been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 when he was charged with the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

The 28-year-old is being held at high security Rampton Hospital and can be kept there for 28 days initially while psychiatric assessments are carried out by doctors.

Rampton secure hospital is home to some of the most dangerous people in Britain, with three out of four of its 400 patients responsible for "very serious crimes".

Among those being held are former nurse Beverley Allitt, who became known as the "Angel of Death" after she attacked 13 children and killed four.

It's very hard to maintain behaviours if you are just putting them on

Dr Mike Harris
As a woman, Allitt is in the minority at Rampton, where male patients outnumber females by approximately six to one.

The male patients include Ian Ball, 53, who tried to kidnap Princess Anne from her car near Buckingham Palace in 1974.

More than 1,400 staff enforce very tight security, putting Rampton on a par with a category B prison.


About 100 patients at Rampton are not criminals, but have been transferred from NHS hospitals, where their behaviour has put staff and others at risk.

Patients can be detained under the Mental Health Act after doctors certify they need treatment under secure conditions on account of their "dangerous, violent or criminal tendencies".

For any of the patients at Rampton to successfully fake mental illness would be extremely difficult, the hospital's forensic services director Dr Mike Harris believes.

He said patients were watched 24 hours a day to assess their symptoms, adding "it's very hard to maintain behaviours if you are just putting them on".

'Like Butlins'

The regime at the hospital, which costs 2,000 per patient a week to run, has been criticised in the past for being too "easy".

Beverley Allitt
Beverley Allitt is one of Rampton's most notorious patients

Last week Chris Taylor, whose baby Liam was Allitt's first victim, said: "Where she is now is like being at Butlins.

"She should be behind bars. I don't want people to forget how evil she was."

Dr Harris said Rampton has a duty as an NHS hospital to try and make patients "comfortable".

But he added: "It's certainly not a holiday camp and I don't believe any members of the public who are saying that, or indeed any members of the press who are repeating it, would want to spend their summer holidays here."

Staff shortages

In May 2000, the former head of the Prison Service Sir Richard Tilt reviewed security at Rampton and the other high security hospitals - Broadmoor and Ashworth - and concluded measures could be much improved.

Sir Richard said patients should be randomly tested for illegal drugs and locked in their rooms at night.

Dr Mike Harris, forensic services director
Dr Harris dismisses the idea that life at Rampton is 'easy'
He also called for random cell searches, for patients' telephone calls to be recorded and for improvements to perimeter and internal security systems.

In 2001 it was suggested that staff shortages were creating possible security breaches.

And in June of this year a survey of patients at Rampton found many were allowed to live poor lifestyles - with extremely high levels of obesity and smoking.

New wing

Each of the secure hospitals in England and Wales is run as a special health authority of the NHS, receiving its funding from the Department of Health.

Scotland has its own special hospital at Carstairs.

Security at the hospitals is tight - and was bolstered further by a 55m cash injection, split between the three sites two years ago.

Rampton is planning an extra high-security wing to house 70 patients.

The government has indicated that it wants to keep the three hospitals open, despite a series of scandals at Ashworth and suggestions that patients might be moved instead to a larger number of smaller units across the country.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Rampton hospital only rarely hits the headlines"
See also:

21 Aug 02 | England
20 Aug 02 | Health
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