30th August, 2013, 2013. 09.15 am, BST. Second edition. 16.20 pm same day.
Third edition: August 31st, 2013. 12.40 pm.
Fourth and final edition, 1st September, 2013, 06.35 am. Hard to place journalism.
Law and schizophrenia
By Helen Gavaghan.
I was jury forwoman. I was 271, living in South London. It was the 1980s. I do not recall the charges, but we heard a story of reckless endangerment. If the story as told was true, irrespective of whether the right defendant was in the dock, we were lucky not to be hearing a story of manslaughter.
Even now I may not tell you what happened in the jury room, nor who my co jurors were. I couldn't if I wanted to. I exchanged contact details with no-one.
I may tell you that after many hours deliberation, and after we asked additional questions, and after we were reprimanded by the judge, and told to stick to the evidence as presented in Court we brought in one verdict of not guilty, and one of guilty. The not guilty verdict was unanimous. Our guilty verdict was eleven to one.
To my astonishment, after we had given our verdict, and before we were dismissed, we heard the judge saying the young black defendant had schizophrenia, and from what the judge was saying it seemed he would receive medical treatment.
I knew nothing of schizophrenia. Nor its treatment.
What I know now is limited to: reading I did in 2006 in my University's medical school library for a news feature I wrote in 2006; the interviews I did then with psychiatrists in person and by phone; having read DSM-IV (which is not a helpful exercise for someone without a degree in medicine); and to subsequent interactions with people who tell me they have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. To them, I say, that being diagnosed with something does not mean you have what you were diagnosed with. If in doubt second, wholly independant, medical opinions are always legitimate. The opinions should be given to you. Not to your GP, and your questions for clarification must be answered until you are satisfied. Difference of opinion does not in medicine necessarily mean one doctor was incompetent.
No matter how smart you are it helps to have an open-minded friend to help you talk through what you read, and help you frame your questions. When in 2004 I needed such a friend there was no-one. No-one.
Accept nothing until you have made the medical profession - that is those with a degree in medicine - understand it is your life, not theirs, and they may not be rude, nor obfuscate, nor be Janus-faced. I have encountered all of those ploys since 2004. Because unknown to me, behind my back, in a manner maximally disrespectful and damaging to me in every way, the medical profession were saying to one another that I had schizophrenia. Not one doctor told me their diagnosis, nor their reason for that diagnosis. And I had no reason to suspect that anyone with a medical degree could be stupid and uninformed enough to have that speculation. I dread to think how extensively the medical profession violated my privacy, sharing with those wholly medically uneducated what was nobody's business but doctor and patient.
In mid 2008, and if you value your homes have no doubt of this, I was undiagnosed with schizophrenia, but only after many years of medical, police and State abuse, of legal incompetence, of being driven to bankruptcy. The life which was mine to lead turned to garbage. On not one occasion has a doctor said we think you have schizophrenia, and these are the specifics why. When in the spring of 2005 the DVLA sent me my driving licence back without me having had further interactions with a psychiatrist, my then solicitor said that means the DVLA should never have required your licence back in the first place. This I knew. And the DVLA contributed to driving me to bankruptcy. Steal a human being's life with subterfuge, and you are no better than a murderer. When I asked doctors why they thought the things they did tell me in 2004, they retreated into haughty, and very rude silence. Thus does the medical profession destroy with lies, abuse of power, condescension and blatant two-faced dishonesty. The journey has cost the UK a fortune, and those who ran up that tab are thieves. Adult, wholly knowing thieves. Did they also lie in wait?
In my case the diagnosis was so egregiously incompetent I have to query active malice.
And I wonder did I in the 1980s as jury forwoman play a part in unjustly damaging another human being?
I have come to understand that the manner in which the mental health act, of which in January 2004 I knew nothing, and the criminal justice system are intertwined is an open invitation for vigilantism, protectionism and those trampling others on their climb up the greasy pole.
In this country if ever you find yourself seeing a psychiatrist protect yourself. It could be the difference between maiming by a stroke, and walking the moors. I write this on the back of 10 pertinent 'O' levels, 4 pertinent A 'levels', a 4-year pertinent degree, significant post-graduate experience, and decades of professional life, where I was the organ grinder and not the monkey. I write it on the back of significant formal voice coaching and training in acting, and on the basis of extensive exposure this past 9 years to State abuse and lies.
But though in 1976 I was offered a place at medical school, which, in retrospect, I see I had the qualifications to take up had I pushed, I have no medical training at all. None. Only extremis is pushing me to give advise outside my formal training, advise by which I stand.
If ever in the UK you come into contact with the mental health profession insist on seeing every word they write about you. It is your right. Challenge all that is even slightly inaccurate. If you were shouting in despair do not let them call you mad. Do not be lured into electro convulsive therapy to ease your distress. If you do not want drugs, say no until you are satisfied the prescription has been fully explained. Insist on knowing the side effects and pattern of side effects. This will be hard, because if drugs are being offered chances are you are weak, even if not ill. It will be hard, because if doctors can capture you by the mental health act they can ride rough shod over your humanity. You will be demeaned, derided, and the practise against you is driven by cruelty, not compassion. If you despise those who wrote, support and want the mental health act, you are correct.
What I am writing, I have come to realise, matters most in the case of schizophrenia.
In the case of schizophrenia analysis must also - and always - be wrenched back to the very beginning, each and every time anyone speculates you might have schizophrenia. And, if the diagnosis in the beginning was wrong, then that must be stated. Take control from the medical profession. Call the shots. Find out how abusive they truly are willing to be. Document. Tell your MP. Try not to worry that the abuse and derision you encounter has made you angry, such that you wonder why you do not recognise yourself. You are the victim. No matter what the statute says, you are the victim. You. Under the mental health act the core principle of medicine, "first do no harm", meaning, specifically, to one's own patient, does not apply. The principle is distorted to justify assault and abuse. The Act causes symptoms to justify its abuse.
To me in the 1980s, when I was jury forwoman, schizophrenia meant some kind of physical or neurological illness. It did not send a frisson of fear down my spine. Even though I came from West Yorkshire (school in Bradford, University in Leeds, home near Halifax), and lived for many years in fear of the Yorkshire Ripper. No link between schizophrenia and crime existed in my brain. Not then. Not now. Given that the Yorkshire Ripper was found guilty of murder, if he had schizophrenia his murderous actions had nothing to do with his illness, nor with whether or not he was taking prescription medication.
Then it was the mid 1980s. It would never have crossed my mind to write any of the above. As someone who was offered a place at medical school, I was in respectful awe of the medical profession. I did not know then what I know now.
Then, when I heard what the judge said about the defendant, I thought, "oh good", at least the system will now look after this human being, whom we have found guilty of a crime. If I'd thought very deeply about the subject - I did not - I would have envisaged consensual medical treatment running in parallel with retributive rehabilitation, the latter tailored for effective interaction with a young adult, who probably had some educational and developmental guidance gaps in his early life.
Knowing what I know now about the intellectually incompetent mental health act, I ask myself did I condemn a young man to years in a psychiatric institution. That is not the civic duty I thought I was undertaking. If he ended up in a psychiatric institution, drugged with what were the then anti psychotics of the day, was he released when he had served his time. He could - quite probably - have waited year in and year out for mental health tribunals to decide whether he was fit to be released. Hope building, hope quashed. Hope building. Hope squashed. Year following years, as those he knew, and who knew him, forgot he existed, as his life was frittered away by a paranoid society. Serving years of imprisonment, longer than if he had no actual or alleged mental illness. Do not delude yourselves. Detention under the mental health act is imprisonment without trial.
We, society, have written law where none should ever have existed, and thus warped both law and medicine.
Had we, the jury, known the defendant had schizophrenia we would not have been able to reach a verdict other than the one we did. His barrister did not argue lack of guilt because of actions consequential on a neurological, neurochemical or neuroanatomical disorder, hormonal imbalance, stress-induced biochemistry, or learning disability making him vulnerable to third party control, meaning that the third party, not he, was guilty of the crime we heard about. Had his barrister had such a defence I am sure he would have made that argument, and if argued convincingly I, for one, would have had no doubt the defendant was not guilty as charged.
He might have been guilty of trespass, and have owed a fine to his local authority, but that would have been none of a Crown Court's business.
If a medical defence had been made successfully I would have assumed as the defendant stepped down from the dock that he remained as free as me, and that his doctors and he would do their best to find a way for him to live with his illness. I would have assumed he had total medical confidentiality. Those were the days when if one asked a receptionist for test results a doctor had ordered, both doctor and receptionist made very clear those results were not the receptionist's business.
I, personally, agree that that was right. To do otherwise invites whistle blowing interference from a position of profound ignorance. Wikipedia is no substitute for a medical degree.
Now I question whether schizophrenia exists, and if it exists whether it is properly characterised. I certainly have experience of the condition being diagnosed lazily, and with profound clinical incompetence, and wrong doing.
If I had known then what I know now about the intermingling of the criminal justice system and the mental health act, I would, on hearing the judges words, after I had reported to the Court our verdict, have felt conned by the criminal justice system. It is possible that after giving our guilty verdict I would have had the guts to go to prison for contempt of Court
My life was good. I had a mortgage on a flat in Battersea, within minutes of Battersea Park. I was a journalist and editor. I had responsibility, good salary, nice clothes. I drank champagne at press receptions, flew Concorde, flew business class. I interviewed ministers - not many, but some. Hobnobbed with the great and the good at Farnborough, the Paris Airshow. Some of my writers were household names. I received a lovely letter from a retired army officer delighted with my story of wine making in California and in England. When I rang, people of consequence answered the phone, and said, "hello Helen", for all the world as though they were pleased to hear from me.
But knowing now what I know of the intertwining of the mental health system with the criminal justice system there is a real, a very real possibility, I would, after reporting our verdicts, have gone to prison for contempt of Court. How dare a Court prepare to hand out a sentence which is not a sentence, but a myth about to disappear in the never never land of the Mental Health Act?
When I was 17 my father died, unexpectedly. At his funeral Aunty Mary played "oh for the wings of a dove". She knew I loved that song. Aunty Mary was a little bit naughty, and she would give me a gin and it with cherries when I went to see her.
Three priests concelebrated my father's funeral mass.
One of them was not aunty Mary's priest brother. Our favourite for Sunday night sing alongs when he was in Yorkshire. Happy to play our piano if you could humm something vaguely recognisable. Completely sweet when the note was flat, sharp, or totally unrelated to anything. I think he was a Servite. A provincial of some sort. When I went to London he took me to visit residents in a home for profoundly disabled people.
Yes, I am pretty sure that if I had known then what I know now about the mental health act and the criminal justice system I would that summer - after reporting our verdict - have gone to prison for contempt of Court.
And this is why.
The mental health act lets police arrest without cause, and gives them a get out clause, enabling them to discredit witness against themselves by saying the person arrested could not understand, and thus had to be detained by the mental health act. The mental health act empowers arrogance among doctors, and allows them to lie with impunity, offloading their lies, laziness and clinical incompetence onto their patients.
Thus the defendant or arrestee never knows what they have done which is an alleged crime. Or the patient enters a world of Kafkaesque horror. Combine law and medicine and there is hell to pay, because of the attitudes it inculcates.
Police can use the mental health act irrespective of whether the person is mentally ill, or whether mental illness is the issue or not. I suspect the Act is used most against women. Its passive aggressive nature is perfect for causing maximum psychological distress to the psychology of women, and of those who are disempowered or unempowered. I suspect women are the ones crying loudest for their fellow women to be abused in this way. A sick form of non-familial sibling rivalry, or the maternal instinct grotesquely contorted.
I know about the horrors and abuses experienced by those called schizophrenic within the UK mental health services and the criminal justice system because, as I walked home on 20th June 20042 past a police car two officers, one man and one woman, spoke to me.3 I responded politely. They asked me to get into their car. I did so without any concern, puzzled, but assuming they had a legitimate reason having nothing to do with crime by me. I had no idea there was any speculation of any kind of me having schizophrenia. And, as I once again write, I have been undiagnosed with schizophrenia. If I had known of medical speculation, I still would not have anticipated arrest, and would have climbed meekly into the police car.
Doctors speculating an individual might have schizophrenia on the basis of local, uneducated bitching is no cause to arrest a law-abiding citizen, but when the speculation is known, it is a great get out clause for wrongful arrest.
As my nightmare began without explanation, cause or reason, the police handcuffed me and took me to hospital. Did they think me ill or criminal? If ill why was I handcuffed? If criminal why did no police officer ever tell me the crime I was suspected of having committed.
The police wanted to parade me through A&E in handcuffs. I said no. I refused to get out of the car. I was devastated, outraged, angry and totally bewildered. But I was polite. If they crowded me I folded my arms defensively, tucking in my elbows. When they viewed me with amusement I refrained from administering a swift upper cut to the tip of their noses.
Not until later did I learn the lies they had told, or that they had used the mental health act against me.
Not until later did I discover my long term solicitors had turned on a dime, and kicked me in the guts.
There is and was no justifiable reason for the police behaviour toward me that night. And now I look back and I wonder what part did the Mental Health Act and the projected paranoia of others play in the story which brought into the dock the young black man who, allegedly, had schizophrenia. I wonder also did the mental health act play a part in the story which let another human being murder repeatedly. Did allegations of schizophrenia play a part in my nightmare?
The Mental Health Act invites vigilantism clothed in sacharine ignorance.
A fully-fledged judicial inquiry is needed into police and medical use of the mental health act, with the actions of each profession being examined independently and jointly. The Act must be repealed. It empowers ignorance and prejudices and manipulation, contempt of Court and suborning of law. How on earth did it get onto the Statute book?
The Act seeks to practise medicine by Statute, and that is a nonsense so total I am astounded I need to raise a pen in protest.
1I write I was 27. I might have been 26, or 28.
2It is possible - highly possible, ironically, and not public, that even as I was being treated as a criminal, I was myself the victim.
3Though I had been with friends for dinner, and we had drunk wine, when the police spoke to me I was walking safely at the side of the road, intending either to take a bus from the next stop, or to walk to a cash point and get a taxi. I was not shouting, singing, weaving in the road, nor stumbling. I was concerned because I had a business meeting the next morning in London at Portcullis House. I was able to keep the meeting. I was doing not one thing which would have justified police arresting me as drunk and disorderly, or as a time waster. I had left my car at the pub several miles away once I was invited for dinner - and that was a total and very pleasant surprise. No-one in their right mind could have imagined I was walking to get my car. Only now (22nd September, 2013) does it occur to me to ask whether those "friends" were acting as vigilantes. If so, prosecute them. I will give evidence. June 20th, 2004 was the first day of police harassment, derision and abuse of myself, which led to my acquittal of charges in September 2008 which should never have existed.
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