Albert Haines, who has become the first psychiatric patient in Britain to have an appeal against detention heard in public. Photograph: /AFP/Getty Images
A psychiatric patient made legal history on Tuesday as his appeal against detention became the first to be open to the public.
Albert Haines's case offered a rare glimpse into the workings of Broadmoor hospital, the high-security psychiatric institution in Berkshire. The 52-year-old is appealing to be released under strict conditions, arguing before a mental health tribunal in central London that he poses no risk to the public.
Haines has been detained at Broadmoor and also at a medium secure unit since being convicted of two counts of attempted wounding in September 1986.
Such hearings there have been about 100,000 mental health tribunals in England and Wales in the past seven years are always held in private to protect patient confidentiality.
But Haines won the right for an open hearing when a tribunal in February ruled he was entitled under section 6 of the European convention of human rights.
In a basement off London's Chancery Lane, he launched his bid for freedom before a panel of three.
Haines, who was dressed smartly in white shirt and dark tie and trousers, has claimed he wants an open hearing to expose alleged failings in the mental health system.
He sat next to his lawyer with a pile of legal papers on the desk in front of him and two male Broadmoor nursing staff within three feet of him. Another three nursing staff sat nearby.
The tribunal heard he disputes a diagnosis of paranoid psychosis and personality disorder, has refused any treatment or to engage with staff at Broadmoor, and believes his discharge is "in the moral public interest".
Arguing for his continued detention, Dr Jose Romero-Urcelay, his senior clinician, said Haines was "delusional", believed he was a "victim of the system" and that staff were out to "sabotage" his hearing.
He outlined incidents when Haines had been violent, threatening, abusive and racist, which led to him being transferred back to Broadmoor from a medium secure unit in 2008.
Since then, he said, Haines had refused all treatment, and without it, said the forensic psychiatrist, "he remains 100% a significant risk to the public".
With it, the doctor estimated Haines could be released from Broadmoor into a less secure unit in as little as two years
Haines had suffered deprivation and childhood abuse, and later had abused cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and alcohol.
Believing he was being persecuted and the victim of conspiracy, he was threatening towards staff, said Romero-Urcelay, who claimedif Haines was released into a normal environment without treatment his behaviour could put himself at risk.
Romero-Urcelay said Haines had responded to anti-psychotic drugs in the past, but now refused them, and that "this mental health tribunal has taken over his entire existence".He said Haines believed it would see "him vindicated" and others exposed as "malevolent and conspiratorial".
The tribunal heard not all doctors who had seen Haines shared the opinion he had paranoid psychosis.
Vikram Sachdeva, counsel for Broadmoor, asked: "Why would Mr Haines have confidence if the doctors are all thinking different things?".
Romero-Urcelay replied: "We are not a precise science. We don't have a blood test or an x-ray that will give you a diagnosis. There is no MRI scanner to detect mental illness".
Haines's case is that the effects of childhood abuse were the reason for his earlier criminal behaviour, and that no acceptable counselling has been offered to help deal with that during his detention.
Haines's counsel, Aswini Weereratne, said: "He didn't kill anyone. He didn't physically injure anyone," she said.
During his detention, Haines had been allowed out into the community on unescorted leave and even had a job in catering at one time. There were no reports of any incidents with the public while he was on his own, she said.
She said his behaviour towards Broadmoor staff could possibly be explained by the fact "he is in a place he desperately doesn't want to be and he's angry at being there".
The hearing continues.