Four years ago today at this time I walked out of court.
I had been released on bail after being arrested for being suicidal. I was charged with breach of the peace and wasting police time, even though there was no one else in danger and no disruption to the public.
I had been so unwell in the court cells that the duty solicitor thought I wasn’t fit to plead, but it was ‘too late on’ to do anything about it. One of my bail conditions was that I ‘engage with social work’ before leaving court, but the social work office had closed for the day.
I didn’t have a social worker, and didn’t have any support or help from them or from mental health services throughout the duration of the prosecution (7 months). I was later told that in court the sheriff said they were minded to remand me as I seemed so at risk and had no help.
I know someone else from my city who this happened to. They were remanded to prison because the court felt they were at such high risk of suicide and mental health services had declined to help. She spent two weeks in prison, and killed herself not long after.
I was so confused and unwell I didn’t know what was happening. I hadn’t seen a solicitor at the police station and didn’t know I had a right to. Fortunately a friend told me to call my solicitor from when I’d been detained in hospital under the mental health act and he took over.
He found which duty solicitor had been assigned the case and helped me transfer it to a criminal solicitor he knew, who couldn’t have been kinder. He met me a week later, and was immediately concerned. One of my bail conditions was that I go to hospital whenever police asked.
This was being misused as a proxy for the mental health act, and was also being used as a threat. That I could be remanded to prison if I didn’t go to hospital on request. I have severe OCD and worries about needing to be in prison and it’s fair to say this didn’t help.
Police also had my keys. I had given them to them on request when I was unwell to stop them bashing down my door, however they were using them without knocking first. The first thing I knew about someone having called police was officers in my flat in the middle of the night.
I was getting more and more unwell (the prosecution was making things worse), and was terrified. The solicitor went to the police station and got my keys. He wrote to the police to ask them to stop coming to my flat. The problem for all of us was that it wasn’t me calling them.
I hadn’t realised this at the time, having called police only a couple of times in my life, and only once when unwell (when I had been instructed to), but this was a key feature of the case. The reason the police had decided to arrest and charge me was to stop the calls about me.
But it wasn’t me making the calls. It was mental health services, the crisis house, the hospital, and health agencies. They were ‘concern for welfare’ calls because I didn’t have the right mental healthcare and treatment and rather than fix that, it was getting shifted to police.
What had made the prosecutors decide to progress the case was that an acting police Inspector had made a statement saying that on the night I was arrested I had made 24 calls to police. This was completely untrue. But I didn’t know at the time he had said this.
As soon as the solicitor was given this statement he was able to disprove it. He contacted the police force’s own information centre and they said they had no record of those calls. They hadn’t been made. But it was too late by then, the process had begun, and was continuing.
There were intermediate hearings during the prosecution, so I was called to court five times. I was getting more and more unwell and my solicitor didn’t want me to appear, so he asked for them to be heard in my absence, but each time I had to go to wait near the court in case.
During this time I was treated in resus in A&E and intensive care many times. I didn’t count, but I think more than a dozen times in ITU. I was very unwell, and my GP and an ITU doctor wrote to the court saying they thought I would die if the prosecution continued.
My solicitor by now had requested my recent mental health records. He called me in to see him. He asked me to read them with him. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I still can’t. He said that he couldn’t advise me on healthcare, but he’d called them as well.
He had asked the psychiatrist and a psychologist who had seen me to write a letter with my diagnosis on. They had refused. They had refused to assist him at all, even with my written consent. He said one had made a comment that ‘consequences like prison might be good [for me]’.
He’d spoken to my mental health act solicitor who spoke to me as well. He was more direct. He said he thought I needed to get away from them, that what they were doing was unlike anything he’d seen. I tried to read the mental health notes again. One comment stood out.
It was something my psychiatrist had written during an appointment after I’d been in A&E for treatment of injuries relating to my OCD. I still think about it now. I can’t bring myself to write it here. I made a decision to ask to be transferred to a different doctor. They refused
Despite refusing to assist the defence the psychiatrist and psychologist said I would see them, or no one. So I saw no one. For four years local mental health services refused to reassign a consultant.
In the meantime I had been assessed by a forensic psychiatrist acting for the Crown. He had been instructed by the prosecution. He could not have been kinder even travelling to a community clinic to meet me for the assessment because I have PTSD relating to psychiatric hospital.
Because my own psychiatrist had refused to report I had to pay for a report for the defence. I saw an NHS psychiatrist from a different part of the country. It took 6 hours. Having been unwell for a long time including years detained in hospital as a child my notes are huge.
The psychiatrist had spent two days reading my notes. The fee for all this for the report would have been around £5K. I was prepared to get a loan to pay but after reading my notes and the court reports he told my solicitor he was going to act pro bono for me.
I never got to tell them, but those acts of kindness from him, the forensic psych, the solicitor, ITU doctor and GP probably saved my life. As I started to think about what was happening the more I thought, the more it felt society needed me to die, they were the counter to that.
The prosecution had been told by doctors if they continued my death was likely, and had continued anyway. They’d seen evidence that I hadn’t made the 24 calls to police, and had only ever called that force once. Looking back it’s hard to see what public interest was being served.
The next kindness was from someone I never met. One of the intermediate diet hearings at court was heard by a High Court judge who was covering the Sheriff court that day. He told my solicitor I didn’t need to appear that day, and should go home. The solicitor called me later.
He said the judge had called everyone into chambers and expressed his concern and dismay at what was being done. The language had been even stronger than that. The judge had told the prosecution that he would personally be hearing the rest of the case.
The judge also agreed with the psychiatrist who had done the long assessment that I was unfit for trial because of my health. The prosecution had another opportunity to drop the case, but didn’t. Instead they progressed it, and a ‘hearing of the facts’ was scheduled.
On the morning of the hearing of the facts, my solicitor called me. He said two words to me:
The prosecution had presented no evidence and so had deserted the case.
The prosecution was over, but the harm from it all wasn’t. That’s still there today as I’m typing this and crying.
Fortunately the kindness from some people continued too. The solicitor, despite having put a lot more hours in that he would often have needed to, hugely undercharged me on his fee. I tried to pay him what the full amount would have been but he wouldn’t accept it.
The reason I’d been left with defence costs was because the case had been deserted. So I had no recourse to try to claim help with these. My other solicitor and the psychiatrist who had written one of the reports continued their kindness too.
Because I worked in a professional job, being charged and prosecuted had (along with what seems like a malicious report) meant disciplinary proceedings against me by my professional regulator. I’d lost my job because of this, despite never having had a complaint at work.
14 months of professional conduct investigation followed. I had lost my job because of all this, lost my income, and it looked like I was losing my career too. The assessment psychiatrist continued to act pro bono, as did my previous mental health act solicitor in advising me.
Without those acts of kindness, the support of my GP. And the kindness of a couple of volunteers at Samaritans who listened to me during a few very dark nights, I’m not sure I’d have made it through that. It broke my heart and I’m still grieving for the job and the work I loved.
I didn’t get struck off, but after all of that time I had physical injuries relating to how bad my mental health had been through it all which meant I couldn’t do my previous work. It’s been hard coming to terms with that, but I’m trying to find a small measure of peace.
That peace has been helped by the humanity of individuals I’ve met. People who’ve made it their business to try to help. Despite everything that was being said about me through it all. Next to do this was a local community Sergeant from the police.
He turned up to a meeting that was being held about me (I had no responsible psychiatrist, so the CPA process was falling apart), and waited to speak to me after. As you might imagine police weren’t high on my list of trusted people at the time, but he helped rebuild that.
People who I met on twitter played a huge part in rebuilding that trust too. I met people from the police who I have huge respect for, and who demonstred through actions that what happened to me doesn’t have to be the standard. That there are many who want to do right by people.
I met people from mental health services on here too, who again have shown through the way they go about their work that there is something worth trusting in. I was unlucky not to find that locally when I needed it. I won’t embarrass those people by tagging them but I’m grateful.
I now know too that some of the police involved in what happened were probably just desperately trying to help, in the face of refusals to assess me by mental health services. It doesn’t explain all of it, but it’s given me a way to understand how so many people looked on.
On the night I was arrested police had taken me to the mental health hospital. We had waited there for hours, and they had them said they didn’t need to assess me, and the police should let me go. I was told to call the crisis house. Which I did.
When I called the crisis house they said I couldn’t go there because I was at too much risk. I’ve never been allowed to go there because they believe I cannot ‘guarantee my safety’ there with the type of injuries that happen as a result of my OCD. They hung up on me.
I was so desperate I called again. They hung up on me.
I called the hospital where I had been taken earlier. They have an crisis team working at night. I haven’t called them since that night. They told me if I wanted help I should call the police. Shortly after, I was arrested.
It’s been 4 years. A lot has changed. For a long time I believed, partly as a result of what happened, and partly because of my illness, that it would be better for society if I was dead. The prosecution and the professional investigation made me very unwell and I nearly died.
I lost the things I had been living for. My dignity, my work, and a career I loved were taken from me. Even last year I couldn’t see a way through. But individual kindness and humanity has helped. I can’t get back to where I was before this, but I hope to find somewhere else.
A number of independent investigations into what happened have now found failings. But there isn’t a sense of redress or safety. What would help is to know that agencies involved have changed and it won’t happen again.
It feels odd having to explain this, but I know now that some of those involved believed that prosecution would help me and would get me access to help and treatment for my illness. It didn’t. It made things a lot worse. It changed my life in a way that cannot be undone.
Thank you to the kind people who have messaged asking if I’m ok tonight. I have amazing friends looking out for me and I’m off to deal with this in the way that I deal with things that I don’t know how to. I’m taking it running.