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Wednesday, February 18, 1998 Published at 00:11 GMT


Call to tighten mental health laws
image: [ Jayne Zito: mental health sufferers carry out a killing every fortnight. ]
Jayne Zito: mental health sufferers carry out a killing every fortnight.

The wife of a man stabbed to death by a paranoid schizophrenic has called for the Government to tighten mental health laws.

Jonathan Zito was killed by Christopher Clunis at Finsbury Park underground station in December 1992.

[ image: Christopher Clunis: killed Jonathan Zito]
Christopher Clunis: killed Jonathan Zito
Jayne Zito, who married Jonathan just three months before his death, said that politicians had repeatedly ignored calls for more supervised community care for mental health patients.

Her demand for more to be done comes after the government announced it was to scrap the care in the community scheme, which aimed to treat mental health patients at home or in the community rather than in mental hospitals.

Drug and alcohol induced killings

Mrs Zito, speaking at the launch of a report by Surrey Social Services on a study of drug and alcohol abuse by mental health patients, claimed that 14 out of the 17 killings studied had been drug or alcohol induced.

Mike Ward, assistant commissioning manager of mental health at Surrey Social Services, who helped compile the report, said: "It is already well known that alcohol is a contributory factory in almost half of the murders in this country and that people with alcohol and/or drug problems are twice as likely as those with schizophrenia to be violent.

"That much more surprising then, that the thread of substance misuse which characterises the reports within this study has been largely ignored."

Legal case

Mrs Zito also once again pledged her support for her husband's killer in his legal action against Camden and Islington Health Authority for neglect in his case.

Speaking at the launch of the report, entitled The Unlearned Lesson, at Alcohol Concern's headquarters in south east London, Mrs Zito said mental health sufferers carried out a killing every fortnight.

Mrs Zito said: "In the last five years since Jonathan died, the government have failed to report these homicides are due to a failure of national policy."

Mrs Zito continued to place part of the blame on social services, probation officers, nurses and police for failing to take positive action.

Failure of services

She said: "The last government for a long time tried to blame the killings on the individuals, saying they were isolated cases of people being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"They did little to acknowledge that it was the failure of services.

"This government has recognised that it is a failing of the system, saying the murder rate is unacceptable to the public.

"If these services are in place, these attacks could not only be predicted, but prevented."

Mrs Zito admitted that the services in general were powerless to force potentially dangerous mental patients released into the community to take their necessary medication.

Mrs Zito, patron of the Zito Trust, went on to urge the services to take a pro-active approach to caring for mental health patients.

She added that patients with a history of violence should be detained and treated on a compulsory basis.

She said: "To minimise the risk to themselves and others, there has to be legal powers in place and if needs be, they have to be removed from the community.

"It raises issues of civil liberty but we can't allow these patients to pose a threat to themselves and the general public.

"We go from crisis to crisis to crisis because services are failing to respond on a legal basis."

Mr Ward conceded that lack of funding was the root cause of the problem. He said: "If we wanted to introduce these pro-active measures, Surrey alone would need several million pounds."

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