One of my favourite works is Isabel Emmett’s 1964 classic, ‘A North Wales Village: A Social Anthropological Study’. Isabel Emmett was an anthropologist from Manchester who married a man from Llanfrothen and she wrote this now well-known wonderful community study of life in Llanfrothen in the mid-twentieth century. Emmett’s study caused a lot of controversy because she wrote about aspects of life in the community that had not been openly discussed and were inconsistent with notions of Nonconformist respectability of the time – for example she revealed that there was a high rate of illegitimate births in the village. Emmett wrote about the phenomenon of ‘not knowing’ – people in the community would claim that they simply didn’t know that certain social practices were taking place, yet the evidence was there for all to see and they must have known. (In one of my own studies of older women who grew up in rural north Wales I came across the same phenomenon.)
I have also encountered a great deal of ‘not knowing’ in my dealings with the mental health services. In 1986 I had the misfortune to encounter Dr Dafydd Alun Jones, a psychiatrist based at the North Wales Hospital Denbigh. I encountered Jones both at Ysbyty Gwynedd and then in the winter of 1986/87, when I was a patient at Denbigh, having been sectioned and detained there by Jones. (This detention was actually illegal, in that Jones had not examined me (or even met and spoken to me) before having me arrested and then appearing in the Magistrates Court in Bangor waving a Bible around demanding that I be taken to Denbigh – he had simply heard that I was back in north Wales and decided that I should be taken prisoner.) After experiencing the horrors of Denbigh (I’ll blog more about these in detail soon) I returned to London where I was a postgrad at the time and continued to make representation about Jones and investigated further (please read my blog post ‘The Mysterious Silence of MIND’ for some more details on this).
One of the many things that I made representation about – for years – was Jones’s highly inappropriate behaviour and attitude to me and other women. Once I began to ask around I encountered many people with first hand accounts of this. Two members of female staff told me that they had been personally sexually harassed by him and that women would try to avoid being alone with him. A trainee clinical psychologist from Bangor University whom I met also claimed to have been sexually harassed by him, after he had shown her an ancient photo of himself with the words ‘this is me whilst I was doing my medical training. Don’t ewe think I was handsome?’ (Indeed, ‘don’t ewe think I was handsome’ became a phrase that caught the imagination of many mental health patients in north Wales when Jones was discussed.) She also told me that there was constant gossip in Denbigh regarding Jones’s conduct with young female patients whom he had decided to take ‘a personal interest’ in. On another occasion I was shown a document that had been compiled by a representative of MIND which stated that five female patients had given statements claiming to have had a sexual relationship with him. I was told by a member of staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd that at one time Jones had cohabited with two female patients at once. Someone else told me that Jones would discharge young female patients from psychiatric care and it would then be discovered that they were living in his house with him on Anglesey because they were now his ‘nannies or housekeepers’. Much more recently, a former social worker from Gwynedd told me that it was an ‘open secret’ that Jones was having sexual relationships with patients.
Whenever I raised my concerns about Jones’s attitude to me and indeed to other female patients, staff would get quite vexed and say ‘he never touched you’ (well no, because I never gave him the chance) or ‘you don’t have any evidence to back up your allegations’. The best comments were that I had ‘delusions’ about Jones and that I had ‘a problem with older men’. Many years after these flat denials that Jones had ever behaved inappropriately with patients, I found some very interesting medical records compiled by Dr Robin Jacobson, a psychiatrist at St George’s Hospital Medical school and Springfield Hospital London, when I had been admitted there in the early 1990s. Jacobson had documented an extraordinary phone call that he’d had with Jones before meeting me – although Jacobson did not tell me about this conversation. Jones had told many bare-faced lies about the ‘care and treatment’ that I’d received in north Wales (one memorable claim that Jones had made was that I had been treated in a ‘therapeutic community’), but what was really interesting was that Jacobson had documented that Jones had described me as being ‘attractive and seductive’ and said that he had a ‘soft spot’ for me. Jacobson noted that he suspected that there were ‘boundary issues’ in north Wales (in other words he thought that Jones was having sex with me) and that he felt ‘very depressed’ at being asked to take over this case. (Jacobson solved that quite easily – I was ignored for the weeks that I was in Springfield, then discharged with no aftercare.) So Jones made these comments to a third party – who was working in a leading teaching hospital in London – and no questions were asked. And those documents must have been read by scores of mental health professionals – and no-one breathed a word, yet they continued to talk about my ‘delusions’ regarding Jones. I had been told by a solicitor in Bangor that once Jones had treated a patient no other psychiatrist would agree to treat them. I had presumed at the time that this was probably because Jones would constantly interfere – having read the documents that Jacobson compiled, I now suspect that it was because other psychiatrists did not want to be faced with what Jones might have said or written, or indeed what the patients might say about Jones. Everyone could then carry on ‘not knowing’ about Dafydd Alun Jones. As for Robin Jacobson – he ended up as a consultant in The Priory in Roehampton. Presumably treating distressed celebs is rather less compromising than discovering the mess that NHS psychiatry leaves in its wake.
There is a clip available on You Tube which shows Bill Oddie being interviewed about Jimmy Savile. At one point, Bill Oddie shrieks, in an incredulous voice ‘The head of the BBC didn’t know about Jimmy Savile??’ He then falls about laughing at the very idea of this ‘not knowing’.
DA Jones is now very elderly and won’t last much longer. To my knowledge, he is still on the Medical Register. I am wondering if after Jones dies, we’ll discover that there were quite a lot of people who did know about him after all.