Daniel Joseph Inquiry
1. Why the Inquiry was set up
In January 1998 a young Deaf man, Daniel Joseph, attacked two women called Carla Thompson and Agnes Erume. Carla Thompson died the next day. Daniel was found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, because he had a severe mental illness.
This tragic event led to a number of investigations. The media was full of scare stories about ‘care in the community’ – the policy of treating people with mental health problems in the community, rather than in old-fashioned hospitals.
An Independent Inquiry was established to look into the care and treatment of Daniel Joseph, and to see what lessons could be learned. The Inquiry team published their findings in September 2000.
2. What the Inquiry found out about Daniel's treatment
The Inquiry report offers no explanation of why Daniel attacked Carla Thompson and Agnes Erume. However, it details the events leading up to the attack. It is dangerous to try and simplify this background, but it is useful to get a better insight.
Daniel had a difficult childhood. His mother took him to Trinidad for some time, and nobody in his family learned British Sign Language (BSL). He was probably sexually abused by a member of staff at a playgroup he attended. Daniel attended Penn School for nine years. He seems to have been fairly settled during this time – making some strong attachments.
There was no real contact with psychiatric services until 1996. Daniel had become very obsessed with wrestling, and thought he was going to travel to America and become a famous wrestler. He went to a wrestling event, firm in the belief that the wrestlers would take him with them. When this did not happen he became angry at home (where he lived with his mother). The police were called and Daniel voluntarily agreed to go to hospital. While at St. Thomas’ hospital, Daniel agreed to transfer to Old Church, the specialist hospital for Deaf people with mental health problems, based in Balham.
From here Daniel went to a residential care home as a temporary placement before he could go to college in Devon. It was felt he was too naive to live independently. Daniel decided to leave the care home and live at the flat of a woman called Carla Thompson in Tulse Hill. Although Daniel’s mental health was getting worse, there were still no real signs to suggest that he was becoming aggressive, or a risk to others.
Carla Thompson apparently persuaded Daniel to stop taking his medication - she believed in the power of prayer. Daniel was missing appointments with health professionals.
In January 1998, everyone involved in Daniel’s care accepted that he needed to be assessed and (possibly) admitted to hospital under the provisions of the Mental Health Act. Unfortunately, there were complications because Daniel had moved to a new address, and people were unsure which local health team should be responsible. There was further confusion because some staff were not sure about the role Old Church could take. This led to delays in an assessment being made.
The Inquiry found that it was impossible to say whether an assessment made even a day before the attack would have led to Daniel being sectioned and admitted to hospital. However, it did point to improvements that could be made to the system so that an assessment would happen more swiftly.