Jail 'only option' says frustrated judge

JON WELCH A judge today condemned the “failing” community care system for leaving him no alternative but to jail a man with mental health problems.


A judge today condemned the “failing” community care system for leaving him no alternative but to jail a man with mental health problems.

Judge Peter Jacobs said prison was unsuitable for David Millward, 47, but that a lack of suitable accommodation for him elsewhere gave him no choice.

Last week Judge Jacobs called on the Home Office to explain what he could do with Millward, given that the nation's prisons were full to capacity yet proper systems of care in the community were not in place.

And today he expressed his frustration that he had still not received an explanation.

Jailing Millward for 12 months at Norwich Crown Court, he said: “I repeat that in this case there is a diagnosis of mental illness which the psychiatrists say does not warrant detention in hospital. Any prison sentence I pass cannot be indeterminate and nobody has provided any alternative.

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“This is ironic at a time when prisons are full and concern is expressed in some quarters about the presence of people in your condition in prison.”

Millward, of no fixed address, had admitted a third breach of a restraining order preventing him from entering Orchard Close, Watlington, near King's Lynn, where his mother Jill Millward lives. It also prevents him from visiting his mother's home.

Police arrested him on January 6 when he was found on the driveway of her house.

Ian James, defending, said: “The difficulty is in certain circumstances, contact with his mother is unacceptable and distressing for her. He had just been discharged from a mental hospital and was in drink. He can be troublesome but he had not done any physical harm to anyone.”

Millward has a history of convictions, mainly for criminal damage and disorderly behaviour, dating back to 1992.

Judge Jacobs told him: “The diagnosis is you are a manic depressive and have been so for 25 years and during elevated moods your behaviour is destructive and requires detention under the 1983 Mental Health Act. In addition, you have a primary personality disorder which is untreatable.”

The judge said Millward's illness did not warrant detention in hospital, but that a report showed there had been a deterioration in his mental health.

“That being the case, there is nowhere for me to send you. The reality is that neither Dr Stanley or Mr Cummings see any value in treating you as an inpatient. That only leaves prison but if I pass a prison sentence upon you I cannot pass an indefinite one and it is inevitable that you will be released in the very near future.

“There is little doubt that you will then commit a further criminal offence. The fear is that it will be in relation to your mother.”

Judge Jacobs said he believed Millward should be treated in semi-secure accommodation with an alcohol ban in place, backed up by the threat of jail. At such facilities, it could be ensured, as far as possible, that Millward took his medication.

“But there is no such accommodation,” said the judge.

“I am being invited to release you to simple bed and breakfast accommodation. That is a recipe for certain disaster, but nobody gives me any alternative.

“The reality is that it is your non-compliance with the requirement to take your medication and your excessive consumption of alcohol which is at the root of your problems, and in some respects you cannot complain about being sent to prison, but it seems irresponsible that I should be obliged to release you into the community at some stage in the knowledge that you have nowhere to go and are highly likely to commit similar further offences.

“If that is the case then somewhere the system is failing.”