By Mark Watts
Scotland Yard succeeded in watering down the official report that reveals how police failures allowed a schizophrenic patient to murder a stranger.
Nicola Edgington, who was living in the community, killed a grandmother with a knife in 2011 – almost decapitating her.
NHS England ordered an investigation by an external panel into the murder of Sally Hodkin. The draft report on the investigation, written by May 2014, said that police should have detained Edgington under the Mental Health Act (MHA) when they had a chance just a few hours earlier.
In passages watered down under pressure from the Metropolitan Police Service, it said: “There was enough evidence for the police to place Ms [Edgington] under section 136 of the MHA on one occasion in the small hours of the 10 October 2011.”
“At this point, the panel felt it was necessary to detain her under section 136 of the MHA.”
“The panel accepts this is a judgement call. Given this set of circumstances, some police officers may have applied section 136 of the Mental Health Act whilst others may not have. However, the panel believes that [Edgington] should have been placed on a section 136.”
These passages have been modified in the final report, which was leaked to me, although the amended document is still damning of police failures. NHS England finally published the report today following the leak.
But I can reveal the watered down passages because they were quoted in a submission by the Met to the High Court in its attempt to reverse NHS England’s decision to publish the report.
The Met’s submission continued: “These conclusions are unlawful and irrational. It would be unlawful for the defendant to publish the report in its current form.”
In its judicial review against NHS England, the Met sought:
The Met told the High Court: “The defendant intends to publish the report which is heavy on inappropriate blame.”
It preferred a previous investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which concluded in 2012 that officers “could” have sectioned Edgington.
The Met continued in its submission: “There can be no public interest in publishing a report which is unlawful and irrational. To do so would not assist in appropriate lessons being learned. Further, the interests in public scrutiny of the conduct of public bodies and lesson learning can be met through the IPCC report and any future coroner’s inquest.”
“The defendant is not obliged to publish the report. There is no obligation to publish an independent investigation report.”
The Met even told the High Court that it denied – contradicting the IPCC – that the police could have lawfully sectioned Edgington.
“It would have been unlawful for the officers to detain [Edgington] under section 136,” the Met claimed.
The investigating panel produced a softened version of the report in January 2016, modifying the passages quoted above. But it still said that the failure to detain Edgington was a “root cause” of the murder.
The Yard maintained its objection to the report, saying in its submission: “The claimant has sought, without success, to remedy the problem areas of the 2014 report and, more recently, the 2016 report. There is no other power to remedy the complaint fully and appropriately. The issues are of real practical significance given the high profile of this case and the likely high profile of the report, if it is published.”
NHS England rejected the Met’s protests, saying in a submission to the court: “Since the purpose of the report is to improve services in the future, it is not understood why the claimant wishes to stifle public debate that may ensue from publication of the report.”
The Met agreed to suspend its legal action last October just before a hearing at the High Court was due to decide on the issue.
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Nicola Edgington gave up pleading to be detained and went on to murder Sally Hodkin