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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
Scandals dog secure hospitals
Broadmoor
Broadmoor psychiatric hospital houses some of the country's most notorious criminals
Three maximum-security psychiatric hospitals house some of the country's most notorious criminals.

The three hospitals - Broadmoor, Ashworth and Rampton - are home to killers such as 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.

Scandals and controversy have dogged each of the three facilities, and there have been numerous calls for their closure both within and outside government.

The discovery on Monday that a patient at Broadmoor with a violent history was able to tape-record confidential staff meetings and smuggle in a mobile phone, a camera and audio tapes, is just the latest such incident .

In 1997, an inquiry into Ashworth Hospital on Merseyside uncovered a catalogue of drug abuse, widely available pornography, poor patient care and security lapses.

The inquiry team, which reported last year, also found evidence of a child being left unsupervised with paedophiles.

'Shameful story'

The investigators said they had no confidence in the ability of any of the then management team to reform the way the hospital was run and called for it to be shut.

However, the unit was reprieved despite the then health secretary Frank Dobson lambasting a "shameful story of confusion, indecision, mismanagement and incompetence" at the hospital.

In 1998, a government report recommended that all three hospitals be replaced by up to eight smaller units across the country.

The report carried out by the NHS Executive was highly critical of all three institutions, and said the high security hospitals "should not continue in their present role" beyond the next few years.

However, the government has refused to heed calls for the three hospitals to be shut.

Instead, ministers have responded to each of the reports by pumping additional funds into the service and promising major reform.

But this latest scandal at Broadmoor hospital will raise further doubts about the ability to reform the service and may heighten calls for the facilities to be shut down.

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