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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"The breach of security is serious and embarrassing"
 real 56k

Professor Ray Rowden
"One has to ask what lessons have been learned from the Ashworth inquiry"
 real 28k

Paul Robertson spokesman for Broadmoor
"We're in the middle of a detailed and complex investigation"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 July, 2000, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Security breach at Broadmoor
Broadmoor hospital
Two nurses at Broadmoor have been suspended
The BBC has learned of a serious security breach by a patient at Broadmoor hospital in Berkshire.

A patient with a violent history was able to tape-record confidential staff meetings and smuggle in a mobile phone, a camera and audio tapes - all are forbidden items.

Since launching an investigation, the hospital has confirmed that two nurses have been suspended, although no reason was given for their suspension.

The hospital houses some of the UK's most dangerous individuals, including the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, and London nailbomber David Copeland.

'Investigation'

Paul Robertson, spokesman for Broadmoor, told a local news agency that an inquiry team had been set up to look into the circumstances.

He said: "The situation is highly complex and investigations are still ongoing.

David Copeland
Nailbomber David Copeland is housed at Broadmoor

"In the circumstances, I am not prepared to comment on any of the specific allegations, as the very nature of our inquiries centres on whether or not there is any truth in the claims at all.

"For reasons of security, I do not want to discuss in detail things we may or may not have found in searches or where we might have found them.

"All I will say is that the searching staff have done an excellent job. In order to complete our investigations we have also set up an inquiry team to look at all the surrounding circumstances."

"This is headed by Broadmoor Hospital Authority Board Director Simon Crawford and there will be input from an external NHS Trust."

Link to Ashworth scandal

Four years ago a security scandal among patients at Ashworth hospital on Merseyside prompted a major public inquiry.

Ashworth hospital
It is believed the patient involved was implicated in a scandal at Ashworth

It found evidence of a child being left unsupervised with paedophiles and child killers, drug abuse and various financial scams.

It is understood the patient at the centre of the investigation at Broadmoor was at Ashworth at the time of the scandal and was implicated in it.

Broadmoor hospital has not confirmed its inquiry was prompted by claims that a patient on the same ward had taken out a contract to kill the one with the illicit items.

The hospital insists no weapon was found during the searches.

Its investigation followed a report by the former head of the prison service, Richard Tilt, which said patients at the UK's most secure mental hospitals should be randomly tested for drugs and locked in their rooms at night.

Sir Richard's report recommended tightening security measures at Broadmoor, Rampton, and Ashworth high security hospitals.

Professor Ray Rowden, formerly the senior civil servant in charge of Broadmoor and the two other top security hospitals, said he was "shocked" by the breach which he said questioned "the quality of security outside the walls".

He said he understood that "some of the patients at the centre of this breach" where also at the centre of the breach at Ashworth and he questioned whether lessons had been learned from the former inquiry.

The latest revelations will also reopen the debate over whether large Victorian institutions, like Broadmoor, holding hundreds of dangerous individuals are suitable and safe places for treatment.

Broadmoor suicides

Sir Richard's report also called for inmates' telephone calls to be recorded, random searches of patient quarters and improvements to perimeter and internal security systems.

In May, the government responded by announcing plans to spend 55m on boosting security at Broadmoor, Rampton, in Nottinghamshire, and Ashworth.

The money will go on new perimeter fencing and increased staffing levels.

Nursing care in Broadmoor came under scrutiny in 1999 after there were seven suicides in 10 months.

A nursing expert was brought in to review the circumstances behind the deaths and to check the care supplied by staff.

The Prison Officers' Association has threatened industrial action in the past over concerns that staff were too stretched to deal with inmates.

Last month it was reported that a female nurse at Broadmoor was suspended over her alleged close friendship with a mentally-ill male patient.

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09 Feb 00 | Health
Ashworth Hospital boss to leave
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