Stone Report Highlights Care Errors

{mosimage} An independent report into the treatment of Michael Stone, who murdered Lin Russell and her daughter Megan 10 years ago, found there had been a catalogue of errors in his care before the attack, it emerged today. Stone – who had a personality disorder and displayed psychotic symptoms linked to drug and alcohol misuse – was given three life sentences for the killings and the attempted murder of Megan’s sister Josie, then aged nine, in Kent in 1996.

The report found mistakes were made by mental health, probation and social workers before the attack, but stopped short of saying that the murders could have been prevented. Speaking at the report’s launch in Maidstone, Kent, the chairman of the inquiry, Robert Francis QC, said Stone’s combination of problems and changeable behaviour had made the “coherent management” of his case difficult.

Mistakes made included the loss of a substantial part of Stone’s medical records by the prison service, which “jeopardised his continuity of care”, and the frequent failure to share information between the “large number” of agencies involved in his treatment.

The failure of addiction services to mount an effective care plan – in particular their denial of Stone’s repeated requests for in-patient treatment – and the poor ID checks by health services that allowed him to register with different services under different names were also criticised.

However, Mr Francis concluded: “We have made criticisms, but we are unable to say that the murders would have been prevented with a better standard of care in these respects.”

Shaun Russell, Lin’s husband and the father of Megan and Josie, said he “reserved the right” to disagree with the report’s conclusion that the murders might not have been prevented.

“If everyone had done their job right, perhaps he wouldn’t have done what he did,” he said. “The long catalogue of failings do give you grounds for at least accepting that that might be a logical conclusion as much as the other one.”

Mr Russell criticised the lack of “joined up action” between the various agencies involved in Stone’s care, including the detox unit, the prison service and the probation service.

The publication of the report angered Stone’s sister, Barbara, who said it was a breach of his human rights and described him as a “vulnerable member of society”.

Ms Russell and her daughters were attacked by a man wielding a hammer as they walked along a country lane in Chillenden, near Canterbury, in July 1996. Josie survived, but suffered serious head injuries and brain damage.

Stone, an unemployed drug addict who was known to the police, was given three life sentences for the murders in 2001.

He was found guilty of two counts of murder and one of attempted murder at his original trial in October 1998, but successfully appealed against his conviction.

Judges ordered a retrial, and he was convicted for a second time at Nottingham crown court in October 2001.

The independent inquiry into Stone’s treatment by mental health, probation and social workers before the attack was completed in 2000, and an addendum added two years later.

The report was not published at the time because of Stone’s appeal against his conviction. It was then due to be published last year, but was delayed while Stone tried to prevent the press and public from seeing the document.

In July, a high court judge ruled it was in the public interest for the entire report to be published. Stone was refused funding by the Legal Services Commission for an appeal, paving the way for today’s publication.

Mr Russell said he was “very relieved” that it had finally been published, but feared the impact of its recommendations could have been diluted by the long delay.

The inquiry was commissioned by the West Kent Health Authority – now the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority – Kent Social Services and Kent Probation Service.

Earlier today, Mr Russell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Josie, who recently left home, had kept him going since the murders.

“She is a light for me, a beacon, and has been someone that I have been able to concentrate on and give all my attention to, and that’s helped me through it all,” he said.

Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said Stone and the Russells were “failed by the psychiatric, probation and other services, none of which appeared to take responsibility for his care and treatment”.

A spokesman for the Mental Health Alliance, a 78-member coalition, said killings by people with severe mental illnesses were rare and could in many cases be prevented by better coordination between agencies.

“Michael Stone … sought help, but was lost between health, criminal justice and substance misuse services,” the spokesman said. “This is an all too common problem.”