This inquiry followed the murder of a mother and one of her daughters, Lin and Megan Russell, as they walked down a country lane; Lin’s second daughter, though seriously wounded in the attack, survived. This crime led the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, to attempt to extend the Mental Health Act to enable “dangerous psychopaths” to be detained indefinitely. Despite the media coverage of the report largely highlighting mistakes by mental health professionals and the prison service – of which there were a few – it actually concluded that Michael Stone's care had been of a high standard: "We are satisfied that the agencies and professionals involved here all did what they perceived at the time to be for the best. We doubt that much more would have been attempted anywhere else in the country." And they went on to say: "the inquiry has found no evidence that they [Stone's crimes] would have been prevented if failings in provision of treatment, care, supervision or other services to Stone had not occurred." These events were the catalyst for the UK’s “Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder” programme.
The inquiry has identified some shortcomings in aspects the care, treatment and supervision provided to Mr Stone. In doing so, the Panel do not seek to suggest that the responsibility for the crime should lie anywhere other than with Mr Stone.
In many previous homicide inquiries there has been a clear explanation of the reasons for the crime either through the court process and/or through the patient’s own account of his/her motivation at the time. In the case of the Russell murders, Mr Stone has continued to profess his innocence. The court process did not reveal any clear motivation for the crime and none of the material available to the inquiry has provided an explanation for it.
As stated at the outset of this summary, this is not a case of a man with a dangerous personality disorder being ignored by agencies with responsibilities for supervising and caring for him. He received a considerable degree of attention over the years in question. The challenge presented by a case such as Michael Stone’s is that his problems are not easily attributable to a single feature of his condition or to combinations of them. Further, he did not easily fall into the province of one agency or a combination of them. His problems were multi factorial, and constantly changing in their presentation and importance. While at times there will be things that can be done for such a person to reduce any dangers he may pose to the public and to help him cope, at other times there will be little that can be offered by any of the services.
The Panel are satisfied that the agencies and professionals involved here all did what they perceived at the time to be for the best. The Panel doubt that much more would have been attempted anywhere else in the country. However, at times the medical and social service provision lacked clarity of purpose and coordination. This could have been remedied by closer adherence to the principles of the Care Programme Approach (CPA).
Since the events with which this inquiry has been concerned, much work has been done by the relevant Kent agencies on improving the CPA procedures and practice, and integrating the CPA and Care Management in Kent.
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