By Mark Watts
Scotland Yard is covering up a report that reveals how police failures allowed a schizophrenic patient to murder a stranger.
It objected to the conclusions in an official report of an investigation into the murder of a 58-year-old grandmother, Sally Hodkin, in south-east London.
A draft of the report concluded that police should have detained the patient, Nicola Edgington, under the Mental Health Act (MHA) when they had a chance just a few hours before she carried out the killing in 2011 – almost decapitating her victim.
It branded the failure by police as a root cause of the murder.
NHS England ordered the investigation by an external panel, and was preparing to publish its report in May 2014.
But the Metropolitan Police Service went to the High Court to block the release of the report because of its conclusions.
The Met branded the report “unlawful and irrational”.
It was happier with a previous investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which said in a report in 2012 that officers “could” have sectioned Edgington.
Yard chiefs were upset about the conclusion of the new report that police should have sectioned her – not just “could” have done.
They launched legal action against NHS England, seeking a judicial review to reverse its decision to publish the report.
The investigating panel produced a softened version of the document in January 2016. But it still said that the failure to detain Edgington was a root cause of the murder.
The Yard continued to object to the conclusions.
It told the High Court: “The defendant intends to publish the report which is heavy on inappropriate blame.”
“There can be no public interest in publishing a report which is unlawful and irrational.”
The Met even denied to the High Court that police could have lawfully sectioned Edgington – contrary to the IPCC’s conclusion.
The Met made four demands:
The Met added: “The issues are of real practical significance given the high profile of this case and the likely high profile of the report, if it is published.”
NHS England rejected the Met’s protests, telling the court: “Since the purpose of the report is to improve services in the future, it is not understood why the claimant wishes to stifle public debate that may ensue from publication of the report.”
Last October, the Met agreed to suspend its legal action just before a hearing at the High Court that was due to decide on the issue.
A “consent order” lifted the ban on publishing the final report, provided the NHS gave the Met 28 days’ notice of its release.
It is hoping to publish the damning report within weeks.
But the court battle has already delayed it by nearly three years and run up huge legal bills for the Met and the NHS.
The document has been leaked to me, and it is utterly hair-raising. The Met is still claiming that there is a ban on publication of the report.
A police whistleblower told me: “The determination of the Met’s manager class to stop publication of this report shows why the training for officers on mental-health issues is so dangerously inadequate.”
Len Hodkin, Sally’s son, told me that he was unhappy with the investigation’s findings: “We feel that the report has made scapegoats from low-hanging fruits.”
Mark Watts (@MarkWatts_1), co-ordinator of the FOIA Centre, is the former Editor-in-Chief of Exaro. Another version of this article appeared in The Sun.
Murdered: Sally Hodkin