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Incidents of hostage-taking in an English high-secure hospital

Birgit Angela Völlm, Andrew Bickle & Simon Gibbon.

Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology

Vol. 24, No. 1, 01 Feb 2013, 16-30.



Serious adverse incidents in secure psychiatric hospitals are infrequent but significant events. The frequency and characteristics of escape, absconsion, homicide and suicide in English high-secure hospitals have been described, but no research has been dedicated to hostage-taking. In this study, we collected details about all hostage-taking incidents in one high-secure hospital, Rampton Hospital, over a 25-year period (1984–2009). We identified four incidents. All were perpetrated by male patients. In two cases, the victims were female staff and in the other two cases, the victims were male patients. All incidents were planned; two involved the use of a weapon. None of the incidents was driven by acute symptoms of mental illness. None resulted in serious injury or in prosecution. Three patients had a history of hostage-taking. Whilst hostage-taking is a serious event, it is extremely rare and appears to be successfully managed in a highly structured and well-staffed environment.



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