An Expert From England

My blog post ‘A Very Cosy Relationship – and Some Serious Smears’ describes the frantic activity behind the scenes, involving people at the highest levels, in Gwynedd and Clwyd Health Authorities after I made complaint about the mental health services. I also explain how the Mental Health Act Commission, rather than investigating my complaint to them about my unlawful detention, was actively colluding with the Authorities concerned. (There are many references in the letters between all these parties to previous ‘telephone conversations’, the contents of which never seem to have been documented.) Yet all this was happening at a time when the North Wales Hospital Denbigh was involved in a high profile legal case – which was even receiving coverage in the London based press – involving the unlawful detention of Ms Mary Wynch (please see blog post ‘Making Legal History – The Mary Wynch Case’) and had a reputation so dreadful that it had been ear-marked for closure. There had been recent damning reports about both Denbigh and the psychiatric wards at Ysbyty Gwynedd and the GMC had received numerous complaints about Dafydd Alun Jones, but had failed to take any action. And Alison Taylor, a social worker from Gwynedd, had contacted Gwynedd County Council, the police and had written to Margaret Thatcher, alleging that serious abuses were taking place in the children’s services across north Wales and that a paedophile ring was operating in the area. One would have thought that perhaps alarm bells should have rung when I started writing to MPs and Ministers at the Welsh Office alleging serious abuses in the mental health services in north Wales. The Welsh Office did act of course – they were providing legal advice to the services that I was complaining about, advising them with regard as to how withhold my medical records and the ways in which they could obtain a High Court injunction against me.

Throughout all this, there was one professional whom I was in contact with who I always knew was excellent but whom I now realise was far better than even I had realised – my solicitor, a local man with a legal aid practice in Bangor, who represented me every time that the mental health services brought charges against me. Whilst I was in Denbigh facing charges of ‘assaulting’ a junior doctor – charges which had been dropped by the time I returned to Court for the case to be heard – it was Dafydd Alun Jones’s responsibility to provide a psychiatric report for the Court about me. I had expressed concern to my solicitor about this situation and he told me that the Magistrates Courts in north Wales had started ignoring reports compiled by Jones because ‘they know what he’s like’.  However, when it was later alleged that I had ‘tried to stab a junior doctor’ at Ysbyty Gwynedd, this solicitor obviously realised that things were getting nasty.

After the junior doctor concerned alleged that I had tried to stab him (please see blog post ‘A Very Cosy Relationship – And Some Serious Smears’), I was taken to Bangor Police Station. During the course of the time that I was at the station a number of memorable things happened. At the station, the officer on duty, Sgt Morgan, told me that statements made by hospital staff were inconsistent and it seemed clear that the junior doctor had lied in his statement. Whilst I was at the station however, Dr X from Ysbyty Gwynedd phoned Sgt Morgan, told him that I was ‘very ill’, ‘dangerous’ and that they would be sending a doctor to the station to section me. Sgt Morgan told Dr X that he ‘couldn’t’ do that and hung up on Dr X. Within minutes, Janice Davies, a ward sister from Denbigh, rang and told Sgt Morgan that I’d threatened her. Sgt Morgan hung up on her too. At this point Sgt Morgan observed to me that ‘they’re all conspiring against you up there’.

Although I wasn’t charged with attempting to stab anyone, I was charged with threatening behaviour, so I was detained at Bangor Police Station overnight. I had three visitors whilst I was there. I would have had another visitor as well, but Sgt Morgan wouldn’t let him in. That was Dr DGE Wood, my former GP, who, the documents from my lawyer reveal, was still taking a very keen interest in me and my activities although I was now living in Leicester. My first visitor was a police surgeon whose name I never knew. To be fair to him, I wasn’t very co-operative but he was frank enough to tell me that he could see why this was. He was remarkably good humoured but did of course ask me if I fancied another stay in Denbigh. I refused and to his credit I presume that he then refused to section me. Then late at night, one Dafydd Alun Jones arrived. He walked into the Sgt’s area where I was sitting and told me that he didn’t think that I’d been ‘helped’ by Denbigh and that I should not be ‘involved with’ the psychiatric services that night. I observed that Denbigh wasn’t really helping anyone. Jones stood up and said ‘I think ewe should be in prison’ and left. Then my solicitor arrived and asked me what Jones had said. I replied ‘I think ewe should be in prison’. My solicitor observed that Jones was saying that because I’d complained about him.

My solicitor told me that he was going to apply for bail for me because there was no way that he wanted me remanded at Risley Remand Centre. He also said that a psychiatric report would be required and he didn’t want that from Risley either ‘because their reports all say the same thing’. By the next day, my solicitor returned to tell me that he had contacted the psychiatric hospital in Leicester, where I was now living, and they’d agreed to provide a report for the court. I was then allowed bail and I returned to Leicester, where I made enquiries and found out a lot more about Dafydd Alun Jones and Denbigh (please see blog post ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’).

I soon received an appointment from the Towers Hospital to see a Dr James Earp, a forensic psychiatrist, for the report. Dr Earp wanted to admit me to the hospital – I was still experiencing serious depressions – but after what I had seen at Denbigh there was no way that I was going to agree to that. So I saw him as an outpatient. As with the police surgeon at Bangor Police Station, I got the impression that Dr Earp was fully aware of why I had so little confidence or trust in him. Dr Earp did compile a report for the Court and then provided a shorter additional report. I have been given legal advice that I cannot reproduce the Court reports on my blog without permission from the people who compiled them (I will be seeking that permission from a few people very soon…), so I cannot reproduce extracts of Earp’s report here, much as I’d like to. However, he did not appear to be mad or corrupt as so many practitioners in north Wales seemed to be and he came up with a diagnosis that I think was probably quite appropriate (I have major reservations about psychiatric diagnoses but Earp’s was probably the most accurate).

I had given Earp a detailed account of my experiences in north Wales and he admitted to being ‘surprised’ regarding the way in which I had been admitted to and detained at Denbigh. However, although he clearly spotted a number of things that didn’t add up at all, he concluded that I was trying to ‘discredit’ practitioners in north Wales. At the time I simply assumed that he could not imagine the enormity of the malpractice in north Wales – it was fairly clear that he was no D.A. Jones himself and I presumed that he really had no idea of what could be happening up there.

But during one of our conversations, Earp let something slip. He was discussing life in north Wales generally and said that he’d only ever visited the Denbigh area once and had been surprised because he had asked someone for directions and discovered that they ‘could only speak Welsh’. So Earp was well aware of how provincial the area was – he would also have been aware that in an area like that, many local people would find it very difficult to challenge the medical establishment in the region. Since then I’ve often thought about what Earp said. Why would he be visiting the Denbigh area? Of course he may have been a tourist, visiting the castle or going hill walking…But he needed to ask directions to somewhere. Denbigh town is pretty compact and the castle is very near the centre. But the North Wales Hospital isn’t, it is quite a way out. There were/are no signposts to the North Wales Hospital and no indication of how to get there. If you’re in the town and you are not local, you would have no idea of how to get to the hospital. A friend who came to visit me when I was there discovered this – he had to ask someone for directions.

In the years following my adventures at Denbigh, I discovered that many, many people in psychiatry knew of it’s grim reputation. At one point when I lived in London I shared a flat with a psychiatric nurse who had trained in Liverpool who asked her former tutor if he knew anything about Denbigh Hospital. She later told me ‘my tutor knows Denbigh Hospital, he says its terrible’.

By the time that I met James Earp, Mary Wynch’s legal case against Jones and Denbigh had been widely reported. This was the first time that anyone had ever sued a psychiatrist for wrongful detention under the Mental Health Act and it was making legal history. The case had even involved an appeal to Lord Denning, the Master of the Rolls. Every forensic psychiatrist in the UK would have been following that case, because of the legal implications for their own practice. By the end of 1986, UK psychiatrists were fully aware that there was a rogue practitioner at Denbigh in north Wales. And I suspect that Earp had visited the North Wales Hospital himself at one point but like everyone else had got lost on the way there.

In retrospect, it could be said that James Earp had been vey culpable indeed by ignoring something terrible that was staring him in the face. But Earp’s allegation that I was trying to ‘discredit’ practitioners in north Wales was a very minor shot across the bows indeed in comparison with the comments and activities of some of the ‘experts’ whom I subsequently encountered…

Author: Sally Baker

I am a writer and a sociologist, originally from Somerset, but I’ve been based in Wales for most of my life. I had my first encounter with a mental health professional in 1984 at the age of 21. My GP described this man to my then partner – who also became a sociologist – as someone who had experienced ‘considerable success’. My meeting with this psychiatrist was a disaster and we attempted to complain about his insensitivity and highly inappropriate behaviour. That was the first time we were threatened and pressurised to withdraw a complaint against a mental health professional. This man is long dead – he was a retired psychiatrist from the North Wales Hospital Denbigh, T. Gwynne Williams, who was working shifts in the student health centre at University College of North Wales (now Bangor University). We discovered years later that this ‘successful man’ was notorious – he had been an enthusiastic lobotomist…

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