June 19 2013 Latest news:
Kate Nelson, Senior Reporter
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
A mental health unit from which four dangerous teenagers escaped is due to close while an investigation takes place and the matter is raised in Parliament.
All ports were on high alert on February 26 after the boys, aged 16 to 18, climbed out of a window at Bethlem’s 10-bed medium-secure adolescent facility. Police issued an alert to the public warning them not to approach them as they were violent.
One was on the run for seven days but all have since been returned.
The unit, in Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, houses 12 to 18-year-old males who have committed or who are at risk of committing crimes.
There are two remaining patients but once they are transferred outside of the borough – since there is nowhere suitable in Bromley – it will shut.
A decision about whether to close the South London and Maudsley Health Trust unit permanently is pending the outcome of the investigation.
Beckenham MP Bob Stewart was so concerned that he is tabling questions with health secretary Andrew Lansley to seek assurances that security has improved.
He said: “I am deeply concerned by the latest escape of dangerous patients. My constituents want to know that the trust is taking the matter of security seriously and I’ll be seeking answers in Parliament from Mr Lansley on the findings of previous inquires into escapes and what action the board took.”
Bromley Council is due to discuss Bethlem at a meeting next Tuesday. A pre-meeting report states: “The trust is aware of the anxiety this incident will cause with residents and with the council.”
In 2009, convicted killer Patricia Gillette escaped for two days after escaping from staff while on an escorted shopping trip.
A Bethlem spokesman said: “We recognise the seriousness of this incident and have decided to suspend operation of the unit. A decision on its long-term future will be taken once an external inquiry is complete.”