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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 March, 2003, 14:34 GMT
Broadmoor women faced sex abuse
Broadmoor High Security Hospital
Details of last year's inquiry have just emerged
Evidence of bullying, sexual harassment and intimidation of women patients at Broadmoor mental hospital in Berkshire was found by an independent inquiry, it has emerged.

The inquiry team, which reported to the hospitals board last year without publicity, said it was "shocked and disturbed" by the lack of respect shown to women by some male patients at the high security hospital.

The hospital houses some of the most dangerous people in the country, including serious sex offenders.

The existence of this inquiry emerged after a former manager claimed on Thursday three women had committed suicide after alleging they had been sexually abused by male patients.

Mixed activities

Newly-admitted women were bombarded with unsolicited letters which quickly moved to more personal and explicit comments, the team found.

No attempt was made to address these issues, the report said.

It even claimed nursing staff encouraged women to get involved with male patients.

Broadmoor Secure Hospital
Profile: Broadmoor Hospital

The report said one of the most striking things the team found was the lack of respect and decency afforded to women by some male patients.

It said: "If what we are told is to be believed the fact it can go unremarked on or unchecked is an indictment of the staff and the organisation."

The authorities at Broadmoor said mixed gender activities have now stopped.

Under government plans new secure facilities will be single gender.

Julia Wassell, former director of women's services at Broadmoor, had alleged three female patients committed suicide and others attempted to kill themselves after male patients abused them.

A survey of 28 women, carried out by Ms Wassell at the hospital in September 2001, found a high level of sexual abuse.

Between them, the women said they had experienced 1,008 incidents of verbal abuse, 64 of sexual harassment, 56 of sexual abuse, five rapes and six consensual sexual acts over the preceding three years.

External review

Broadmoor's regulations do not allow sexual intercourse between patients.

The Department of Health said an external review had been carried out.

Ms Wassell said her reports led to her being victimised and claimed constructive dismissal before settling out-of-court for an undisclosed sum with the hospital.

Broadmoor then housed over 350 men and 67 women.

Men are only admitted after committing murder, manslaughter or sexual offences.

Seventeen of the women there then had committed no offence. The majority of the rest were there for offences such as arson.

Ms Wassell alleged managers did not act when she raised concerns.

Broadmoor and the Department of Health said an external review had taken place into the allegations in March last year.

Women's services at Broadmoor are to close over the next two to three years, and patients will be transferred to a new women-only facility at Rampton Hospital.

In a statement, Broadmoor hospital said mixed gender activities had been suspended when the inquiry begun, and would not be reintroduced.

Dr Ray Rowden, former head of high security hospitals told BBC Radio 4's Today programme services should be moved away from the high security hospitals.

"I've watched these institutions over a decade or more and regrettably they're as dysfunctional as ever," he said.

" We spend hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on these services that are meant to guarantee two things to the public - one, security, and two, a therapeutic environment for some vulnerable people.

"This latest report suggests the public are getting neither."

"These women are isolated and forgotten," he added.

Jacqui Smith, Health Minister
"It was important that what we did and what the trust board did was to take action"

Q&A: Mental health 'sectioning'
20 Aug 02  |  Health
Broadmoor sexual abuse claims
06 Mar 03  |  Health

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