of policeman by man diagnosed with schizophrenia provokes range of
responses from mental health campaigners
by Angela Hussain
high profile murder of a policeman by a man diagnosed with schizophrenia
provoked a range of responses from mental health campaigners.
Earl Butler was convicted on Friday of stabbing a police officer
to death as the officer tried to arrest him. Earl Butler attacked
DC Michael Swindells, 44, on a canal towpath in Birmingham on May
21 last year.
49-year-old was convicted at Birmingham crown court of manslaughter
on the grounds of diminished responsibility, which he admitted.
was cleared of murder after the prosecution accepted that medical
evidence showed he had an abnormality of mind at the time of the
mental health charity Sane - headed by former Sunday Times journalist
Marjorie Wallace - said the case revealed the "inadequacies"
of treating some mental health patients in the community.
charity also questioned how effective assertive outreach teams were
in assessing risk, arguing that 24 supervised accommodation was
view was backed up by some newspaper editorials which criticised
the effectiveness of mental health services in protecting the public
from dangerous people diagnosed with a mental illness.
response, Mind emphasised that since the introduction of community
care there have not been an increase in homicides committed by people
with a psychiatric history.
high profile killing has again accentuated key differences in opinion
between Mind and Sane, two of the UK's leading mental health charities.
chief executive added that he was appalled by the "knee-jerk
and sensationalist" reaction by some media reports.
Daily Mirror editorial entitled "Crazy Policy" in the
Daily Mirror described Butler as a "violent psychopath who
should never have been on the streets". The editorial accused
the mental health service of failing to control "such a dangerous
man". A Daily Express news report was headed "Protect
lives by keeping psychopath killers caged"
Sun editorial questioned "the safety of the public depending
on a mentally-ill man remembering to take his medication".
Following DC Swindells's death, some 462 tablets, or 18 months'
worth, of anti-psychotic drugs were found at Earl Butler's property.
reported that the mental health problems of the Jamaican-born mechanical
engineering graduate appear to have begun when he was made redundant
from his job with Rolls-Royce in 1982, after joining the company
as its first black trainee.
It was said during the trial that he had believed the police were
responsible for him losing the job.
Butler was first referred to Stafford social services in 1992 when
it was told that he had been living without electricity for two
years. In 1994 he kicked a neighbour in the head in an unprovoked
1994 and 2001 Earl Butler was sectioned three times.
court was told that during his stays in hospital he was often verbally
and physically violent towards staff and other patients.
Turner, chief executive of the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health
Trust, whose outreach team was caring for him at the time of the
killing, said staff who visited him before the incident thought
he was taking his medication and did not believe he showed signs
of a "relapse".
internal inquiry would be carried out, she said.
independent inquiry will also be conducted by the Birmingham
and Black Country Strategic Health Authority.
Wallace told the Times: "The trouble with outreach and other
teams is that they give a 'snapshot picture' of a person's mental
state on which risk assessments are based, instead of 24-hour contact
when deterioration of mental condition would become more evident."
the end, policy and treatment came down to cost, she said. "Providing
supervised, 24-hour accommodation is expensive. Living alone is
less expensive," she said.
conviction of Earl Butler came three days after the government announced
in the Queen Speech that it was to press ahead with its controversial
mental health bill, condemned as draconian by an expert parliamentary
committee. But the government said the bill will protect the public
from dangerous people diagnosed with a mental illness
Justice Calvert-Smith ordered Butler to be detained indefinitely
at Ashworth high security hospital in Liverpool.
29, 2005: Government again under fire over plans to change mental
health law - parliamentary committee warns that planned legislation
would erode civil liberties
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