Mentally ill patients killed 96 in London over eight years, say trusts

  • 8 October 2013
  • From the section London

Nearly 100 people have been killed by mental health patients in London in eight years, figures show.

From 2005 to 2012, 96 people were killed in the capital, an average of 12 every year.

The figure represents 12% of the total number of murder convictions for London during the same period, which Ministry of Justice figures show was 826.

South London and Maudsley NHS Trust had the highest number of deaths, with 31 people being convicted.

Mental health charity Sane said the vast majority of mentally ill people were never violent.

Separate research released on Monday found that people with mental illnesses were three times more likely to be victims of crime than others.

Across Britain, 615 people convicted of homicide were found to have contact with mental health services between 2001 and 2011.

Researchers at Manchester University, who have analysed the data, said rates had decreased since a peak in 2006.

'Long heartbreak'

The latest figures for London, which were obtained from London mental health NHS trusts by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act, supported this trend.

Chief executive of Sane, Marjorie Wallace, said: "These alarming figures do such damage to the majority of mentally ill people who are never, ever, violent and are more likely to be the victims of violence."

She said although homicides among mental health patients were relatively rare, more could be done to prevent further deaths.

"We've done an analysis which showed at least a third could be prevented and possibly more, so it's quite unforgiveable that we are not learning the lessons."

She said more inpatient beds were needed, as well as crisis centres. Psychiatric services also had to listen to warnings from families and friends of someone who was mentally ill, she said.

"If this was a physical problem, we wouldn't be facing these kind of crises and the long, long heartbreak of all the families involved," she said.

'Tragedies happen'

Martin Baggaley, medical director of South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, said although the trust had the highest number of people who had killed, the figures were not disproportionate to other trusts.

He said this was because his was a large organisation which covered more than one million people. The area also has high rates of crime and depravation.

He said: "Of the 31... only 11 were felt that the actual homicide was related to their mental illness, so there were some that were in contact [with the Trust], for example with alcohol addiction or depression, who carried out the homicide. But the courts determined that it wasn't related to the mental health problem."

He added: "Psychiatrists cannot control all aspects of behaviour, it's unrealistic.

"These are difficult people sometimes to keep track of, and I don't think we really want to live in a society where we're going to build vast numbers of asylums and lock everybody away forever.

"So if you have people in the community, sometimes, unfortunately, tragedies are going to happen. What we have to do is really minimise those."

This story has been amended in light of new information from the Ministry of Justice, putting the figures into more context.

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