Hill End Adolescent Unit, St Albans, Hertfordshire
There were particular establishments about which we received many complaints, the worst in this respect being Hill End Adolescent Psychiatric Unit near St Albans. A total of 17 young people complained about the regime and their treatment there.
At Hill End, we received complaints from two young people who seem to have been sent there purely because they suffered from anorexia nervosa. Both had been committed under Mental Health Act legislation and had been kept locked up on secure wards. Their ‘treatment’ appears to have been solely behavioural modification ‘therapy’ and use of sedative drugs. The use of drugs, particularly largactil and haraparadol, both as treatment and during restraints is a common and widespread practise. At Hill End, we also had many complaints from young people (supported by staff) that sedation was used as punishment. As an example, one young person, out of sheer boredom, set off the fire alarms. As she did not own up, all eight young people in her dormitory were sedated for 24 hours. Those that did not take it voluntarily were forcibly sedated.
Another common practise at Hill End and other units was that during forcible restraints, their trousers and undergarments were pulled down and injections administered in their buttocks or thighs, often violently. All young people felt humiliated and sexually assaulted by this treatment, particularly female young people, subjected to this treatment by male staff. They often complained of being ‘groped’ or ‘touched up’ by males in these situations. All the female young people who complained had been subjected to strip searches on occasion by male staff and about 60% of those had also been body searched. The most common excuse being searching for glass or other sharp objects with which young people could damage themselves. Yet most young people felt that the circumstances at the time of the search gave no rise to any real concern that young people had any such items. Generally, strip searching appears to be part of general routine procedures within units. For instance, young people being strip searched after visits by social workers because ‘that is the rule.’
“Below is a list of the cases we were investigating just before our closure under John Major’s administration:”
Hill End Adolescent Unit 1990. We made the report, ‘Therapy of Fear’.