This blog is a work in progress. I was motivated to begin writing it in the late summer of 2016 in response to the ongoing tragedy, scandal and chaos that is the north Wales mental health services. I have a good knowledge of these services, their history and the events that led to the current catastrophe. However, this is not a story that begins and ends in north Wales. From 1984, I watched and gained evidence of institutional corruption in the English medical establishment – assisted by institutional corruption in the legal establishment -that enabled the mental health services in north Wales to inflict a great deal of suffering on a lot of vulnerable people, many of whom did not survive. In 2012 I gave much of this documentary evidence to the Welsh Government, having been told that they were desperate to improve the mental health services (and the wider NHS) in north Wales. I trusted them to use this material to remove some very problematic people from their posts who had blighted the region for years. The evidence that I acquired was easily sufficient to have dismissed numerous people and indeed to have prosecuted many more.
The Welsh Government failed to respond appropriately, denying and fudging. At the time I presumed that this was because they were desperate not to admit to any failings that would then be used against them by a hostile Westminster Government. That was the case, but after I began researching for this blog, I realised that successive Westminster Governments were even more culpable.
After trusting the Welsh Government to respond to evidence of serious criminality, I was subjected to such severe harassment, abuse and threats that I left north Wales. I gained the impression that this was seen as the solution; I was expected to shut up about the dreadful events and then embarrassment could be avoided. Because the serious wrongdoing was never addressed, a lot of people remained in roles in which they should never have been in the first place. The mental health services in north Wales imploded some years ago. Patients continue to die in alarmingly high numbers and the region is so toxic that the Health Board cannot recruit staff. The Welsh Government placed the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in special measures in 2013 because of the failures of the mental health and maternity services. The Welsh Government told me in Aug 2016 that it will take time and effort to transform the mental health services in north Wales. I maintained that they would not be able to do this unless people guilty of serious wrongdoing were dismissed and prosecuted. That still has not happened.
A Brief History of the Beginning – That a Lot of People Have Tried To Rewrite
To understand the problems in the north Wales mental health services, it is necessary to look at their history. Until the 1990s, psychiatric services were provided by the North Wales Hospital at Denbigh, simply known to everyone as ‘Denbigh’. By the mid-twentieth century, Denbigh had a seriously grim reputation, even by the standards of big regional asylums. The things that Denbigh was notorious for included aversion therapy for homosexuality (this continued at Denbigh until the 1970s, years after homosexuality had been decriminalised) and psychosurgery. Denbigh employed an enthusiastic lobotomist, Dr T. Gwynne Williams, who grew up in Llandudno, trained at the Middlesex Hospital in London and after service in the Royal Navy, spent his career at Denbigh. Gwynne remained a practising psychiatrist until at least 1985; he died in the latter part of 1986.
Enoch Powell famously visited Denbigh in 1961 in his capacity as Harold Macmillan’s Health Minister and was so appalled by what he saw that he told the reception committee at Denbigh ‘I will not let you do this to people’ and returned to London. Powell subsequently made his famous ‘Water Towers’ speech, declaring that he would begin the programme of asylum closures. That much is the official history. Powell’s visit to Denbigh and his much publicised disgust was actually well-planned political posturing on the part of Macmillan’s Government. Powell’s proposal to close asylums was met with an expected and orchestrated backlash from everyone who had a vested interest in keeping the asylums open and operating lawlessly (Powell was one of those with vested interests in the status quo) and the asylums remained open for decades longer.
When I was a student at UCNW, 1981-84, Denbigh was still going strong and still a law unto itself. Students who experienced mental health problems were occasionally taken there, although very few of them returned with tales of Denbigh because they were usually very rapidly returned home to be cared for. This was to avoid English students with middle class parents recounting tales of the horrors of Denbigh after they were released. Denbigh was very much a receptacle for the powerless and dispossessed who had transgressed in some way; the score was known by Welsh people, but not by many people outside of Wales. Denbigh would never have survived if it had been receiving patients from other cohorts.
Despite its dreadful reputation, some of the psychiatrists at Denbigh wielded enormous power in the region, both over individuals and other institutions. Gwynne Williams fell into this category, but when I encountered Gwynne in early 1984, I had no idea who he was or where he had worked. As an undergrad I’d suffered severe mood swings and a GP working in the UCNW Student Health Centre, Dr D.G.E. Wood, told me and my then partner B.J. Brown that he wanted a psychiatric opinion. Brown and I were well acquainted with the critiques of people like Laing and Szasz and we were most reluctant to agree to this. Although Wood continued pressing this theme throughout 1983 when I was not getting any better, he only actually referred me to Gwynne Williams in early 1984, when, thanks to Brown, certainly not Wood, I was functioning again, in fact functioning quite well and working towards Finals and graduation. Wood told Brown that he wanted to refer me to a psychiatrist with expertise in psychotherapy ‘who had enjoyed considerable success’. So Brown and I eventually agreed to the consultation, after Wood told me that he would not treat me any longer if I did not agree to an appointment with the man with expertise in psychotherapy who had enjoyed considerable success.
The meeting with Gwynne Williams was an unmitigated disaster and Brown and I subsequently attempted to complain about Williams. Our complaints became stronger when I caught sight of the letter that Gwynne Williams had written following the consultation and found it to be so inaccurate that it could best be described as libellous. Wood became very angry and at one point yelled at me ‘he’s done a lot of people a lot of good’ and stated that he wasn’t going to put up with complaints about Gwynne from Brown or me. On another occasion he told me that I ‘wasn’t allowed’ to complain, because Gwynne Williams was ‘answerable only to himself’ no less. By this time I’d started hearing tales from other students who had also encountered this man and made complaint. Eventually I took the matter up with the Students’ Union. It was clear that UCNW was quaking in its boots at the thought of any confrontation with Gwynne, which mystified me. The row continued and the Students’ Union Welfare Officer told me that the University really didn’t want to acknowledge this man’s failings. So I wrote to the newly appointed Principal of UCNW, Prof Eric Sunderland, who subsequently sent me a polite soothing letter in the summer of 1984, acknowledging my dissatisfaction with the student psychiatric services. By this time, I had heard that Gwynne was terminally ill and I presumed that was why no-one wanted to confront his shortcomings; they were all being nice middle class people faced with a dying man.
Years later I discovered that Gwynne had been an infamous butcher with a dreadful reputation and after I began this blog I uncovered matters re Gwynne so dreadful that they have resulted in Gwynne being pretty much written out of history. Gwynne was facilitating what would now be called a paedophile/trafficking ring and his role was to lobotomise the complainants who would not keep quiet. Many died as a result of the butchery and there were a number of murders at Denbigh as well. Gwynne was one of the key players in the organised abuse that is now spoken of as the Westminster Paedophile Ring.
Another key player in the recent history of the north Wales mental health services who was initially Gwynne’s junior colleague at Denbigh and then succeeded Gwynne, is Dr Dafydd Alun Jones, whose entire career has been dogged by controversy and complaint. Gwynne was appalling, but DA Jones’s appointment and subsequent promotion to the role of consultant psychiatrist resulted in a truly impressive criminal cartel of corrupt professional people who literally ran north Wales and to a large extent still do.
I have known since the 1980s that Gwynne and Dafydd were involved in criminal activity and although what I had uncovered by the early 1990s was serious, I had no idea of the scale of the crime and how many people in very senior roles – including people outside of the UK – were part of it. It was an international trafficking racket, including the production of child porn and a trade in Class A drugs. I worked on this blog for many months before I realised that I was substantially researching the Westminster Paedophile Ring. My early blog posts do not reflect this; I thought that I was simply blogging about institutional corruption in medicine and the legal profession concealing serious medical malpractice, as well as collusion with weak politicians…
Despite Denbigh’s terrible and terrifying reputation, it is interesting to consider what has been written about it. People have certainly written about the history of Denbigh but the history, in particular the more recent history, is highly sanitised. This was an institution where sexual, physical and financial abuse of patients was rampant. I witnessed malpractice and mistreatment of patients when I was a patient in Denbigh during Dec 1986-Jan 1987 and I heard first hand accounts from former patients, relatives and the occasional very brave former member of staff. Denbigh was also the subject of damning reports before the NHS had quite so many inspections and reports. Yet patients voices are usually absent from the accounts of the history of Denbigh and the memories of former staff are foregrounded. Much of the outputs re the history of Denbigh has been as a result of collaboration with former staff. There is a local history society relating to the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, which is a forum for former staff. The website has an area in which former staff chat to each other and share their memories, provide details of staff reunions etc.
Outputs from these historical projects locate the horrors of Denbigh firmly in the dim and distant past. There is a distinct feel of ‘it was all a very long time ago and we do things very differently now’ about it. An account of psychosurgery at Denbigh has been published by one north Wales psychiatrist, David Crossley. What is not mentioned is that Gwynne was busy practising psychiatry until the 1980s and that David Crossley himself worked (and I think trained at) Denbigh. I think that David Crossley worked at Denbigh whilst Gwynne Williams was still there, or had only recently ‘retired’ to the Student Health Centre at UCNW. David Crossley certainly worked at Denbigh whilst the authorities were deluged with serious complaints regarding DA Jones.
North Wales has been blighted by Denbigh. There are scores of people still professionally active in the region, often in senior positions, who trained and/or worked at Denbigh and they are deeply compromised by this. A lot of hands are not clean. For example Peter Higson, the Chairman of the Betsi Cadwalader University Health Board, 2013-18, worked as a clinical psychologist at Denbigh and then became general manager of the institution; Dr Tony Roberts, until recently a psychiatrist at the very troubled Hergest Unit at Ysbyty Gwynedd, worked at Denbigh; and numerous nurses and social workers in the region worked there. If someone trained or worked in mental health in north Wales and they’re over fifty they did some or most of that ‘training’ at Denbigh. This has not been without impact. When Denbigh did finally close its doors – the general public were lied to by the Dept of Health and Welsh Office when it was announced that Denbigh closed in 1995, parts of it remained opened until the early years of the millennium – the staff were simply moved into the new units and community services that replaced Denbigh, taking the practices and attitudes towards patients that they’d learnt at Denbigh with them.
Then there are the many Government officials, Councillors, politicians, police officers and members of other professions who facilitated, concealed or colluded with the criminality and their families who cannot bear to admit what happened at Denbigh.
As for DGE Wood who referred a 21 year old student to a lobotomist, he continued to work as a GP in the region and in 2012 was awarded an OBE for his services to medicine. He certainly performed a good service for Gwynne Williams. At the time of writing, Wood and Dafydd Alun Jones remain on the Medical Register with a licence to practice. A number of their colleagues voluntarily relinquished their registration after they were discussed on this blog.
It is only in the past few weeks ie. Sept-Oct 2019, that I have been made aware of the impact of Brown and I refusing to keep quiet about Gwynne in 1984, writing to the GMC etc. Our complaints led to the Principal of UCNW, Sir Charles Evans, retiring and the appointment of his replacement, Eric Sunderland. Sunderland was part of the cartel run by Gwynne and Dafydd and an arrangement was made between Sunderland, the University Grants Committee, Margaret Thatcher and Prince Charles (the Chancellor of UCNW), that UCNW would not be closed as planned back in 1981 in return for my career being ruined, as well as the careers of the few friends who supported me. A great many other people were bribed or blackmailed into silence, it was quite a bonanza. Such effort was made because the path of criminal wrongdoing led to the door of the Royal Family, Margaret Thatcher and so many others. They knew exactly what Gwynne and Dafydd had been up to for years.
I understand that the North Wales Hospital Historical Society was established after word got around that Brown and I had begun publishing academic work that mentioned the North Wales Hospital…
I was impressed when I discovered that the only London hospital to be closed in the wake of Thatcher’s promise to take an axe to a number of them was the Middlesex, the institution at which Gwynne trained and with which he was associated throughout his life. It was part of the erasing of Gwynne from history after Brown and I refused to keep quiet; there is barely a trace left of Gwynne. A lot rested on Gwynne Of The Middlesex. The Middlesex was an institution closely associated with the Royal Family. The Earl of Athlone aka Prince Alexander of Teck – the brother of Queen Mary who was married to George V, the Great-Uncle of HM the Queen Elizabeth II – was the Chairman of Governors at the Middlesex Hospital as well as Chancellor of London University, the degree awarding institution for medical graduates of the Middlesex Hospital. The Earl of Athlone was still Chancellor of London University when Gwynne qualified. Then there was Queen Victoria’s generous donation that led to the building of the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, the Welsh authorities refusing to fund such an asylum on the grounds that there was not the demand for one in the sparsely populated region. Queen Victoria generously coughed up and the asylum was built. Records from the time show that there were a great many patients in Denbigh who were not from Wales who’s treatment was being funded by local authorities in England. Some years after opening, more building work took place and the North Wales Hospital Denbigh was substantially expanded, then housing thousands of patients. There weren’t thousands of pauper lunatics in north Wales…