The Problem of Anonymity

Perpetrators and Victims

Although homicide inquiries are supposed to be rigorous, transparent and open to public scrutiny, in many cases health authorities do everything they can to conceal the identity of the perpetrator.

They do so out of an overriding concern for the rights and welfare of the killer over those of the victim and their families.

Many investigations don’t even bother to name the victim.

If they do – they might just use the initials, but not always the right ones.

Many victims’ families find this practice grossly insulting.

It’s also completely pointless.

In many cases the identities of the perpetrator and the victim will already be well known from press reports of the incident, of the inquest and around any legal proceedings.

Medical Professionals

Although medical professionals used to be routinely named and identified in these reports, this doesn’t usually happen now.

It’s sometimes argued that anonymity is used to encourage mental health professionals to report incidents that otherwise wouldn’t come to light. But homicides are usually pretty obvious and well known events and none have been investigated following a tip off from an anonymous health professional. It’s hard to see how this argument can apply to mental health homicides, yet it is repeatedly and routinely used by a large number of Health Authorities.

The Health Authority decides whether to publish the names or not. Mostly they don’t.

Sometimes inquiry panels expressly request full disclosure but are ignored by the SHA.

One such example is here http://www.london.nhs.uk/webfiles/Independent%20inquiries/PB%20report%20030909/PB%20Broadmoor%20Addendum.pdf

The SHAs often claim it’s to avoid undue blame being placed on the mental health professionals.

Others argue it’s just a way of avoiding responsibility.

Repeat Offenders?

Anonymising mental health professionals also means there is no way of telling whether certain people attract a repeated pattern of problems and/or feature in more than one independent homicide inquiry report.

There are at least two cases in the West of England where the same consultant psychiatrist was involved in two separate local homicide inquiries of patients in their care.

Scrutiny

European law requires independent inquiry reports to “have a sufficient element of public scrutiny”.

Anonymising and obscuring the identities of all those concerned means there can be never be any proper or adequate public scrutiny.

And that can be a serious problem.


SOURCES

Perpetrators and victims
There are very many examples of this: NHS South Central: Independent Inquiry into the care and treatment of Mr E (Ben Cargill Case) NHS Yorkshire & Humber – all inquiries currently listed http://www.yorksandhumber.nhs.uk/what_we_do/improving_patient_care_and_service_quality/patient_safety_and_governance/independent_investigations/

Repeat offenders – personal knowledge.
Matthew Martin Inquiry
Tolger Kurter Inquiry

Scrutiny From Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Discussion on decisions by European Court of Human Rights, in Liberty briefing http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/rights-of-the-bereaved/investigations-into-deaths/european-convention-on-human-rights.html
See also: ECHR JUDGMENT: PAUL AND AUDREY EDWARDS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM (Application no. 46477/99) Strasbourg, 14.03.2002

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *