Professionals gave psychiatric patient murderer “too much liberty”

Professionals gave “too much liberty” to a secure psychiatric unit patient who went on to murder a member of the public.

Denis Finnegan, a 50-year-old former banker, was cycling through Richmond Park in London on September 2, 2004, when he was attacked at random by psychiatric patient John Barrett and stabbed to death.

Despite a history of violence, Barrett had the day before been allowed to walk out of the secure unit at Springfield psychiatric hospital, which is run by South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust.

“Too much liberty was given to John Barrett, in spite of indications both immediate and historical that John Barrett was high risk,” read an independent inquiry’s report released last week.

The report found serious failures by South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust.

The inquiry found, too much consideration was given to “rehabilitating” Barrett and too little to public safety.

The inquiry, chaired by the mental health lawyer Robert Robinson, recommended an external team be appointed urgently to overhaul the unit’s care of dangerous psychiatric patients.

Finnegan’s killing is only one of a number of violent incidents involving patients at the hospital.

A report is pending into the random killing of Matthew Carter, a fitness instructor, by another Springfield patient in February.

Peter Houghton, the trust’s new chief executive, said “a great deal of change” had since been implemented.

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