Poor management of a low-security mental health unit run by the National Autistic Society was to blame for the escape of an in-patient who went on to rape a 14-year-old girl.
That was the verdict of an independent review of the case released this week.
In February this year 21-year-old Darren Harkin escaped from the The Hayes hospital near Bristol, before attacking the girl at knifepoint in Chepstow. The hospital holds up to 12 people with an autistic spectrum disorder detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.
The charity commissioned consultant forensic neuro-psychiatrist Dr Ekkehart Staufenberg to conduct a review of the facility following the incident.
Lack of oversight
The report said that the absence of strategic and executive oversight at the hospital was ‘the core causal contributory factor’ leading to Harkin’s escape. The working culture of The Hayes was also criticised, as well as the ‘skills mix’ of clinical staff.
It recommended that certain patients admitted from high-secure personality disorder services be transferred immediately and that the hospital stop further referrals from any high-security setting or prison.
Other recommendations included conducting a clinical audit of all in-patients and ‘near-miss’ incidents and the erection of a security fence.
NAS chief executive Mark Lever accepted the report’s findings in full and said that action was already being taken.
He added: ‘This was an absolutely terrible incident and my sympathy is firmly with the girl involved and her family. I am committed to doing everything in my power to make sure that nothing like this can ever happen again.’
Harkin is now being held at Broadmoor maximum security hospital.