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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Child visit restrictions upheld
Rampton Hospital
The case was brought by a patient at Rampton Hospital
The High Court has upheld a government decision to restrict visits by children to three of the country's top security hospitals.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn introduced the restrictions after concerns about children visiting known child abusers.

Mr Justice Scott Baker rejected claims on Wednesday that the decision to restrict visits at Rampton, Broadmoor and Ashworth hospitals were "unfair, irrational and a breach of human rights".

The case had been taken by a patient at Rampton referred to as "L" who is in his mid-forties and who was sentenced to life imprisonment after murdering an elderly man in 1980.

The Secretary of State has had to conduct a balancing exercise

Mr Justice Scott Baker

The patient, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was regularly visited by his two sisters and their children, until a change in hospital policy in 1998.

He is godfather to several of the children but has not had any contact with them since the NHS policy was introduced.

"L", who cannot be named for legal reasons, resided in ordinary prisons until 1995, when he was transferred to Rampton, Nottinghamshire, diagnosed as suffering from a personality disorder.

Mr Justice Scott Baker said: "The Secretary of State has had to conduct a balancing exercise between the rights and interests of children on the one hand and patients on the other."

The directions were the result of wide consultation with experts and were "carefully structured and built in the necessary safeguards".

They did not breach the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to respect for private and family life, said the judge.

Sweeping changes

The sweeping changes, introduced in September 1999, followed a public inquiry into paedophilia and pornography scandals on the wards of Ashworth hospital, Merseyside, which houses some of the country's most notorious criminals.

The independent investigation, headed by Peter Fallon QC, found that farcical security arrangements meant inmates had access to pornography and visits from an unaccompanied eight-year-old girl, being "groomed for paedophile purposes".

The three hospitals house some of the country's most notorious criminals, including Moors murderer Ian Brady and Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe.

The high-security facilities are run independently of the prison service and provide psychiatric care for convicted criminals.

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12 Jan 99 | UK
Hospital's troubled past
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