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Psychiatric patient Joe Paraskeva's arson conviction quashed

  • 12-12-2012

A mentally-ill man jailed indefinitely for an arson attack in a psychiatric ward has had his conviction quashed.

Joe Paraskeva, 22, who has bipolar disorder, had his prison sentence changed to a hospital order by judges at the Court of Appeal.

Mr Paraskeva, of Stoke Newington, east London, admitted arson and was jailed for public protection in April 2011.

The court heard no medical report was produced at sentencing as he refused to leave his cell to be assessed.

Lord Justice Gross said he accepted this was due to Mr Paraskeva's mental illness.

Escape attempt

He said: "We conclude, on all the evidence, that the appellant was suffering from a mental disorder both at the time of the offence and sentence.

"On the evidence now before the court, it seems plain to us that the most suitable method of disposing of the case is by means of a hospital order."

Mr Paraskeva was charged with arson in October 2010 after trying to set fire to the door of a psychiatric unit at London's Homerton Hospital as he attempted to escape.

He had been detained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act less than 48 hours earlier after attending the hospital voluntarily.

After admitting the charge he was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of imprisonment for public protection and sent to a Young Offenders Institution.

In 2003 he was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, after an independent psychiatric report was obtained by his family, but remained a convicted prisoner.

His mother Linda Morgan, who has campaigned against her son's conviction, said the outcome had made it all worthwhile.

"I am just so relived that everybody agreed that he should be in a hospital and not a prison," she said.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said Mr Paraskeva was one of thousands of young people who have been shunted into prison due to the failures of psychiatric services

She said: "It is shocking that a severely mentally ill 22-year-old man should have been treated as a criminal and detained in prison rather than a psychiatric hospital.

"It has taken more than a year and reports from three psychiatrists to quash the indeterminate sentence for public protection imposed on him and that he should be treated as a patient and not a prisoner."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said while it did not discuss individual cases "it was vital those with mental health issues are given a fair trial and we have a range of measures to ensure this basic right is upheld".

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2012 BBC


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