Hill End Adolescent Unit

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.’

The Therapy of Fear, NAYPIC 1990

“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’.


Hill End link with photograph

680 responses to “Hill End Adolescent Unit

  1. Sean


    The irony! Dr peter Bruggen the same one who harmed a family member of mine during his time at hillend now writes books and also practices as a psychiatrist in London. From my research through Google.

    • Lisa

      Oh yes I’ve seen all the shit he writes. God if only people apart from the ones he abused knew the truth about such an evil sadistic bastard. Hope he rots in hell.

  2. Lisa

    Just went onto that link sean.
    And left a message on there blog. This will open a big can of worms.

  3. Sean

    Most psychopaths are charming and do anything to look like upstanding pillars of the community. These people have no conscience!
    I’ve seen the effect it’s had on my family member that went through this . It’s so sad to see someone in pieces
    And with such sadness all because of these sick sadistic b*****do! !!

    • Lisa

      I couldn’t agree more Sean. I’m sorry to hear your family member is still suffering. We do have a support group if you were interested in joining. And there is also a police investigation.

      • I’ve just spoke to the police on the phone,asking them where this case is going
        They told me that there is still statements they are taking,they want as much evidence as possible as will make case stronger.They are having a big meeting with top notch officers in February to work out where the case is going

  4. Madeline o'keeffe

    Have a nice Christmas everyone on here and fingers crossed 2018 will be your year!!!!!!!

  5. Fred Jones

    A major police investigation has been launched into abuse at Hill End Adolescent Unit. It is called Operation Meadow as you may already know. It will not succeed unless all former adolescents complain about the physical, emotional or sexual abuse they suffered there. The telephone number for Hertfordshire Police is 01707355011. Please contact them and ask tospeak to the investigating team. Tis is probably your only chance to see justice served.

  6. Anon

    It is taking evidence on “the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse” in councils, the police, armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, charities, religious groups and other public services.

    Anyone with information for Operation Meadow is asked to call police on 101, visit the dedicated website or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

  7. Anon

    I am collecting information for the forthcoming Court Cases stemming from Operation Meadow. Please for those reading this blog can you forward some specifics on your sedation including reason for and types of medication used and also if you were given a choice. This will usually be Chlorpromazine injected or Chloryl Hydrate given orally.

    For example :-

    Dave, talking too loud, injected with Chlorpromazine. No choice given.

    If you are female and were injected can you say whether you were held down or injected by male staff.

    I am particularly keen to hear from a female contributor who said she was sedated for being silent. Was this by injection or oral medication. Were male staff involved.

    • kayte power

      I’m sorry but who are you? The police have advised to go through them and you are asking for details of things. If you were an ex member of staff or part of the other side of the case, this would help prepare your defense. No offence but it’s not worth risking the case just to satisfy some persons curiosity. If you were part of the police team, your post would not be anonymous. Please clarify

  8. Borishu

    Apologies re omission in previous post. Please send responses to borishu1983@gmail.com regarding sedation questions. This will be very helpful with the ongoing enquiry.

    • Scott

      Hi who are you and how comes you are gathering your own evidence the police are gathering all statements and people have been told not to discuss it as lots of media trying to get story’s so before people should give u any info I think I u need to be more clear why u are doing this yourself


      • He won’t be getting any information out ov me,you wanna know about sedation get a book and read up on it

      • Scott

        Agree Andy it’s a bit funny how they not replied to my last msg possible someone trying to ruin what we are fighting for people need to be very carful wot is put out there at the moment as people may be fishing for info to see how much evidence we have given police so best not to reply with any info until u know the person is genuine

    • Kaytepower

      I have now confirmed with police that you are nothing to do with the investigation. Please don’t try and sabotage the right to justice of what were a group of children and are now adults trying to deal with their ordeal.

    • kayte

      you seem to have gone a bit quiet, considering you are asking for very personal details from others. How about you share what your interest in this is. Who Are You

  9. kayte power

    agreed guys, well spotted

  10. Patricia

    Was anyone at Hill End in summer of 1979 with me when they filmed the Horizon A touch of Sensitivity?

    • Hiya
      I was there 82-83,have you been in touch with solicitors,if not please do so,also Opperation meadow,we need as many people to come forward so them scumbags are punished for what they did,I hope you are ok there is lots ov people on this sight if you feel you need support
      Best wishes

  11. Madeline o'keeffe

    Hi Patricia, all HEAU are hopeing to finally get some restitution for what they have all suffered..

    • Madeline o'keeffe

      Just thought that people on this site may be interested in knowing that my local paper printed an article in which the police are asking again for anyone in Hillend to make contact. I was pleased to read this as I was beginning to think interest from all agencies had lost momentum and as all of you are being so brave I definitely feel this must not happen.

  12. Karina Heath

    Hi I was at forest House hill end in 1997 and was there when we transferred to another building. I was 14 years old. They were still injecting in the buttocks when I got out of line had so many drugs in my system I couldn’t lift my arm and was followed around constantly by staff at my time there. I was restrained on the floor and had a thing put in my mouth where they poured liquid down my throat when I wouldn’t eat any of the grease filled crap they had in pots bought in from god knows where. I thought all of these things were correct practice until I read these. I never forgot Phil mcmeneme as he and Phil self helped me but was so worried about Dr burman.

  13. Madeline o'keeffe

    I am sorry to read yet another sad story about that disgusting unit, fortunately the unit is finally being investigated and the more people that speak to the police the more chance of success and justice.

  14. I really don’t think that this is being taken seriously,and it isn’t going to go anywhere,am I the only person thinking this,I think we are all being mugged off,the mental health team and social services are as I see it part ov the government,are they really going to say they got it wrong,I’d like other people’s views on this please

    • kayte power

      Hi Andy, I can hear your frustration. But I do think they are taking it seriously. However, their workload is huge! We have cases spanning nearly 30 years and they don’t have endless resources. Its just going to take time and I am taking it as a sign that they want to do a thorough job. If it was rushed then it will just get thrown out. Hang in there and don’t lose hope. kayte

  15. If someone reported me for any type ov assault I would be arrested,why isn’t any action being taken against these people

  16. Andy Mitchell

    Just had a phone call from the police saying that they are taking this case seriously and that they are working on it full time,let’s hope them bastards get what they deserve,none ov us should have been abused like we was.
    I hope everyone is well

  17. Madeline o'keeffe

    Hello Andy, I was going to reply that I spoke to the police last month and they told me same, that the case is not going to be a quick result as they are interviewing so many people which is positive, take care, Madeline

  18. It’s just so annoying,they should be in prison for what they did especially Bruggen,surely they should have enough on him by now,he should be in prison while they are investigating the case,but instead he’s going around in flash cars,what’s weird is we’ve all been told not to speak to the press,yet if it was to go on tv news then surely there would be a hell ov a lot more people come forward quicker which would give police more evidence,there’s thousands ov people who suffered because ov them,how are people going to come forward if they don’t know about the investigation,it’s doing my head in

    • kaytepower

      I get it, Andy, you are totally right to feel frustrated. But media has its own agenda, making money. If we share too much information, then it will give the other side information to defend their position. We started with a smaller group than there is now. Also, lots of people just want to move on and forget it happened. I found this site because I was looking. Others who are looking will find this, or pitsea pirate, or facebook group. It will never reach the numbers we want because life scatters people and we have no way of finding them. Trust that the ones looking will find us and there may be many who dont want to be found. You’ve got to find other things to distract you so you don’t just sit brewing on it. It’s not good for you, with or without this case. It will eat away at you and that just makes these people powerful in your world without even doing anything or thinking about it. Don’t give them that power. If the case ends up not going forward or being thrown out then you will be free to tell anyone you want. There will be time. But I would much prefer to think about how much they are sweating while they know there is a case being formed. They don’t know the outcome, just as we don’t, take comfort from that. They are the guilty ones and people can’t escape their own thoughts. Try and think about that while we wait. There is just no way to do this quicker, it’s just too big a case.

  19. Pingback: News Archive | goodnessandharmony

  20. Thankyou Kayte,I got a call from the police today,checking with me the details ov my care order because they are trying to get my records,they said there’s a problem with Hillend records because ov the so called fire and apparently a lot ov records was lost in a flood aswell,how convenient for the scum who was running Hillend,I’m hoping solicitors will arrange another meeting soon,I’m going to get in touch with them and see,I hope everyone is doing well,

  21. Madeline o'keeffe

    Hi Andy, How are you?
    Agree, it would be good to have another meeting with solicitors.Take care of yourself, Madeline.

  22. Madeline o'keeffe

    So, Gospor instituinalised culture of drug overdose, read Hillend.

  23. Madeline o'keeffe

    Sorry, wrote when tired what should read is,’ the similarities between Hillend culture of drug abuse given to vulnerable people and The Gosport case’.

    • Heau patient

      What is your nonsense on about Madeline? Really inappropriate and insulting to compare HEAU case with other cases which is also being under investigated too.

      I was a pateint at HEAU in 1995 and I just don’t have the confidence to go to police as it is just going to open up my inner demons which I have stored away for many years. I congratulate anyone whom has gone to their police. Madeline; think before you write nonsense about cases which has nothing to do with HEAU!

  24. Hi . I was at hill end 78/79. It was the worst time of my life. I was the girl in the horizon program. I think in there they called me Debbie . They changed it for the program

  25. Andy Mitchell

    Has anyone been in touch with the police lately I texted them just over a week ago to ask where things are going only to be ignored,I think we should be kept more up to date,hope everyone’s ok

  26. Madeline o'keeffe

    I spoke about a month ago and was updated. Hope you ok Andy.

  27. Lisa

    Peter Bruggen head honcho is DEAD

    • SARA

      Its karma, what he die from the bastard

      • Heau95

        How do you know he is dead?
        Where is the evidence?

      • Lisa

        Dr Peter Bruggen

        Arturo Ezquerro
        Who is in charge? A man of integrity who survived swimming with sharks

        Dr Peter Bruggen (17 July 1934 – 20 September 2018) has been one of the great influences on adolescent mental health and on innovative ‘group-analytic’ psychotherapy

        When World War II broke out Peter Bruggen was 5. He had previously been separated from his parents – a difficult experience for him. As an older adult, he would intimate to me that in time of danger and uncertainty we all have even greater need for unity and for secure attachments.

        I met Dr Bruggen at the Tavistock Clinic in 1984, on my arrival in London to train in child and adolescent psychiatry and in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. He was my supervising consultant and my research tutor from 1984 to 1993, and my mentor from 1994 until 2016, when his health started to deteriorate. We had worked so closely together for more than 30 years that my gratitude became an existential debt. I didn’t know how to pay him back. Last year, I wrote a book chapter on his work, “Authority and attachment in adolescence” (Ezquerro, 2017), in an attempt to pay tribute to him, while he was still alive. I also invited him to write a chapter for a book I am editing on the theme of Life and Death. He initially declined. I pushed. He then asked our colleague Rik Lambert to write it up jointly with him. The chapter explores blood as a symbol of death.

        Last October, Maria (my wife) and I invited Peter and Joan Bruggen to our holiday home in Ametlla de Mar, a small fishing village in north-eastern Spain. They stayed with us for two weeks. It was beautiful, though painful and difficult at times. Before the trip, I had dreamt that Peter and I were swimming open waters, in a real blue Mediterranean sea, for hours and hours, non-stop. In Spain, we did in fact enjoy swimming together every day. He revelled in the beauty of the scenery and submerged into new explorations. At one point, he said: “Hey, Arturo, I am swimming with docile fish, at last”. Peter had been a serious swimmer all his life but now tired after a few minutes – and there were a few thunderstorms. I must confess that I sometimes failed him. He had been one of my heroes; I felt unable to accept his sharp decline. Reflecting back, I wish I had been able to look after him as he had previously looked after me.

        Near the end of his prolific career, Dr Bruggen was appointed medical director in one of a new wave of NHS Trusts, when major reforms were introduced in 1991. He thought that public health services needed a good shaking, tougher management, proper costing and better accountability structures. Things turned out differently from what he had expected; he retired in 1994, aged 60. In a revealing book, “Who cares? True stories of the NHS reforms” (Bruggen, 1997), he confessed that during his last two years as medical director he rarely slept through the night; he had headaches and other psychosomatic complaints. The NHS was insidiously being engulfed by the new neoliberal religion, the market, under the auspices of Margaret Thatcher and her followers. That was difficult for a committed socialist like Peter Bruggen; but not so for other socialists, like Tony Blair, who would later exploit market forces conspicuously as a basis for New Labour.

        At the point of his retirement, I asked Peter to be my mentor and we agreed to meet monthly to talk about my NHS work as a consultant psychiatrist and as Head of NHS medical psychotherapy services, in Brent. I no longer had a formal need for mentorship. However, I thought that learning is an open-ended task and that in looking after myself I would also be working for the benefit of my team and of our patients. I might not have survived without him. I enjoyed his wisdom and his creativity until my own recent retirement. Well …, as a matter of fact, I am not in retirement and, like Peter, I may never quit. I can recall a time when I was pushed to the limit. He gave me a paper: “How to swim with sharks”, written for sponge divers by Voltaire Cousteau in Paris, in 1812. At first, I thought Peter was being humorous but, no, he was deadly serious and told me not to bleed!

        In the paper, I did learn this is a cardinal principle: if you are injured you must not bleed. Bleeding prompts an aggressive attack from sharks and might often provoke the participation of docile fish. Not to bleed when injured is difficult and may indeed seem impossible. However, diligent practice will permit the experienced swimmer to sustain a serious laceration without bleeding or even exhibiting any loss of composure. Unless you learn to control your bleeding you should not attempt to swim with sharks, for the peril is too great. I thanked Peter and was haunted by reading:

        “The control of bleeding has a positive protective element for the swimmer. The shark will be confused as to whether or not his attack has injured you and confusion is to the swimmer’s advantage. On the other hand, the shark may know he has injured you and be puzzled as to why you do not bleed or show distress. This also has a profound effect on sharks. They begin to question their own potency” (Cousteau, 1987).

        Since 1987, year after year, Peter and I have participated in a charity marathon swim (swimathon) – a newly created event which runs annually across the country to raise money in support of Marie Curie cancer care. Peter Bruggen in fact died in one of Marie Curie’s hospices, in Hampstead. Poignantly, prostate cancer killed him.

        The authority of the adolescent peer group

        Dr Bruggen was a charismatic, unconventional and democratic leader. He made his mark in the mental health world by creating and developing an innovative adolescent unit; which opened in St. Albans, in 1969. Covering a population of over four million, the Unit primarily provided ongoing specialist consultation and support to families and professionals in the community, as well as short-term in-patient group treatment for troubled and troubling adolescents up to the age of 16. At the point of referral, the adolescent would be assessed together with their family or the professionals caring for them.

        Dr Bruggen’s initial question inevitably was: “Who is in charge?” This would sometimes be followed by another question: “Who wants what?” I found these probes powerful and insightful: therapeutic shortcuts that invited everyone in the family to think together, and to try to understand other members’ motives and expectations. Dr Bruggen told me he had first heard of these ideas from John Bowlby at the Tavistock Clinic in 1966. He had also been inspired by Bowlby’s (1949) landmark paper “The study and reduction of group tensions in the family” – a pioneering publication on family therapy.

        The primary task of the initial assessment was to work with the family’s resources, and to support the authority of parents and professionals, with a view to keeping the young person living in the community. Dr Bruggen literally meant this, even when it might not be politically correct. He and the team were so successful that a number of the Unit’s 30 beds remained empty. This achievement was not properly understood by the Department of Health’s advisors who soon recommended that he be removed from the job. But he was a good fighter and managed to persuade the Health Authority to see merit in the empty beds. He reframed these as promoting care in the community (Bruggen & O’Brian, 1986). Additionally, he thought, having enough empty beds would be of help in case of a sudden increase of illness, like in epidemics.

        In spite of strong opposition, Dr Bruggen kept his job during 4 decades until his retirement. And he provided a good role model for those of us who worked with him. I was fortunate enough to belong to a unique generation of psychiatric senior registrars who worked at the Unit, including the late Freddie Gainza, Tony Kaplan, Tony Jaffa, Morris Zwi and Jane Roberts.

        Dr Bruggen trained at the Tavistock Clinic in the mid- and late 1960s; after which he worked there as a consultant until 1990. Derek Miller (director of the Adolescent Department) was his tutor at the Tavistock, while Donald Winnicott was the supervisor for his training in adult psychoanalysis, which led to his membership of the independent group of the British Psychoanalytical Society. Miller encouraged him to use ‘authority’ in his work with young people, and this concept became one of his foundations at the in-patient adolescent unit.

        The bottom line was about how to integrate authority, parental care and self-care in order to grow. Dr Bruggen supported the authority of the parents and, also, the developing authority of the adolescents – with a view to helping young people develop a sense of inner authority which they could recognise as their own. The Unit’s young patients learned fast and took over from the staff the role of chairing the community meeting (as well as other adult-like roles). Their handling of this piece of delegated authority was far more creative than the staff had ever achieved. Peer group support, analysis and sanction proved to be sensitive and effective.

        A flexibly designed group-analytic approach was the backbone of Dr Bruggen’s adolescent unit. The entire therapeutic programme took place in family group or peer group sessions, based on a modified therapeutic community model. He was inspired by Tom Main and by SH Foulkes, ‘father’ of group analysis. One-to-one therapy sessions were not available at the Unit.

        So, what happened when an adolescent became very distressed and felt in need of individual support? The answer was this: they were offered the possibility of calling a group meeting. This would be attended by all (staff and patients) available at that particular moment. Allowing adolescents to exercise their own authority flexibly, to expose their vulnerability within an unambiguous boundary structure, paid off. At the ad hoc therapeutic group meetings, there were moving episodes of open communication among the adolescents who became more able to empower one another.

        Looking back, I could see a process through which adolescents at the Unit projected their incipient sense of personal authority and identity onto their peer group. This investment proved to be an effective way, for most of them, to develop their own views and status. For these youngsters, it was easier to recognise in their peers the parts of themselves that they had projected onto them. The authority of the peer group was helping them to become more assertive, rather than aggressive, and to regulate the distance from and to their attachment relationships.

        Having had three daughters (Emma, Camilla and Alice), a less known contribution of Peter Bruggen was his fight against gender discrimination. He and his Tavistock colleague Sandy Bourne published over half a dozen papers on distinctions awards for consultants. They criticised the allocation by committees in secret and focussed on sexism in NHS management. They examined all sorts of factors: age and specialty of recipients, specialty of members of committees, collection of data. They demonstrated that women were grossly under-represented, both, on the committees and as recipients of awards.

        From my perspective, Peter Bruggen was a wounded child; an insecure adolescent; a confused medical student … But he survived through personal resilience, psychoanalysis, newly-formed attachments and consistent group work – and he became a distinguished psychoanalyst; a creative consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist; an innovative family therapist; a prolific author; a true socialist; an authentic group person … The list is longer. If I had to choose two qualities to his overwhelming humanity, I would say he was a devoted family man and a loyal friend who shall stay with me until my time comes. Thank you Peter!


      • Another c… escaped justice

  28. Lisa

    That bastard has had the easy way out

  29. Scott

    Still loads more of evil Twats still alive

  30. Lisa

    The above is an interesting read

  31. What’s the bet the police do nothing giving us some story about it being too long ago

  32. Heau95

    See below update from the solicitor whom is representing HEAU survivors.

    Happy New Year

    I email to provide you with a brief update. I emailed DCI Kent for an email and he has provided me with some information.

    He said that the investigation is continuing. The police have started to receive the reports that had been commissioned from experts. The police instructed five expert witnesses covering Pharmacokinetics, Social Work, Psychiatry, Psychology and Child Nursing. Once all of the reports are in they will be assessed.

    The police continue to try to access medical records and to contact former staff members. DCI Kent made it clear that the investigation continues to be a priority for him and his team.

    As you might be aware Peter Bruggen, who was the Consultant Psychiatrist at the unit from 1969 to 1994 died on 20th September 2018 following a short illness. His death was published at the time. This has not had an impact on the investigation – the experts continue to report. Whether it might make a difference when the police discuss with the CPS I am not sure. At this time, we do not know what opinion the experts have given; it is possible that the experts do not think anything was “wrong” at HEAU.

    As soon as I receive any further news I will let you know.

    Best wishes


  33. Russ Quilty

    I was there in the early 1970s. I was traumatised by what a specific nurse did to me. I live in Scotland now. The police from the investigation team came up to see me I remain sceptical that the scum that called themselves Nurses will ever be held to account..

  34. Madeline o'keeffe

    I hope justice is done, surely must be more news soon

    • They must have enough evidence by now,they still want it kept quiet,doesn’t make sense,I’m not holding my breath

      • Jacqui

        This will take time as years of paperwork, all the statements they don’t want to miss anything and have everything in order to present to the CPS who will make the decision as to criminal charges

      • Andy mitchell

        They don’t want all the statements,I ain’t having it that by the amount ov ppl who have already come forward that they don’t believe we are telling the truth they don’t want it publicised,it was so called child specialists who did this to us
        now the police have put the evidence in the hands ov 5 child specialists,I know
        what I think

  35. tony mcnairn

    I was there in 93 and witnessed horrific abuse.. sexual phycologyical and physical! Please get the bastards

    • Scott

      I was there same time Tony and also witnessed this

    • Andy mitchell

      Please get in touch with the police,Opperation meadow and Leigh day soldiers there must be thousands ov us who suffered by the hands ov them sadistic bastards.
      Wish you all well

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s