Last week, two of Britain's leading supermarket chains came underfire for stocking mental patient outfits for Halloween. Former Blairite spin doctor Alastair Campbell
no less railed at them for promoting what he implied was the fiction that mental patients were dangerous. Guess what, some of them are.
Six months ago, 16 year old Christina Edkins boarded an early morning bus in Birmingham. So did Phillip Simelane. And stabbed her to death
. Yesterday, after pleading guilty to manslaughter by the legal fiction of diminished responsibility, he was ordered to be detained during Her Majesty's Pleasure.
The term mental illness is of course hopelessly generic; both the common cold and bubonic plague are physical illnesses, and are not comparable. By the same token anorexia nervosa
and paranoid schizophrenia are nor comparable either.
What is especially tragic about this case is that Simelane was recognised as a high risk individual. He had served a gaol sentence for threatening his own mother with a knife; police had been called to the family home no fewer than 21 times due to his behaviour. On his release from prison in December last year he was apparently left to fend for himself, and was homeless. Homelessness and schizophrenic is not a good combination.
Simelane is the latest in a long line of seriously disturbed, dangerous men and women who have been turned loose on society in recent years.
Last year, another paranoid schizophrenic, Hannah Bonser
, was convicted of murder after likewise stabbing a schoolgirl to death. Bonser realised she was homicidal and had sought treatment only to be turned away.
Four years ago, another paranoid schizophrenic
was convicted of manslaughter after stabbing both his parents to death.
The case of cannibal Peter Bryan
is almost too horrific to mention.
The fact that there are so many such cases is a clear indication that something is terribly wrong with the way such people are dealt with, but as with child abuse cases such as the ongoing Amanda Hutton trial
, the authorities never seem to learn anything, no matter how many internal investigations and high level reviews are carried out.