Expert underlines mental health fears

There could be more than a thousand prisoners with mental health
problems being inappropriately held in prison, an expert told the
inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham Young Offender
Institution last week.

Professor John Gunn, former chair of forensic psychiatry at the
Royal College of Psychiatrists, told the inquiry that the prison
population had increased by 50 per cent since a national survey he
conducted in 1991 revealed that “at least” 1,000 mentally
disordered prisoners had been “wrongly” placed in prison.

“There are a lot of prisoners… who have slipped through the
nets… who should be in the NHS under prison policy,” Gunn

His comments follow claims by former prison service director
general Martin Narey earlier this month that Mubarek’s killer
Robert Stewart was just one of an “overwhelming” number of
prisoners with mental illness who did not receive psychiatric

Gunn, who was commissioned to write an independent report for the
inquiry, added that prison staff had “wasted” an opportunity to
provide a proper psychiatric assessment of Stewart. He told the
inquiry that a proper assessment might have prevented Stewart and
Mubarek being placed in the same cell.

“At the very least, a psychiatric assessment would have given a lot
more information. It a possibility which I believe should have been
raised,” Gunn said. “It may well have got through the system that
this man was not a man to be put in a cell with another
The inquiry continues.

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