A Mental Health Review Tribunal, constituted within the walls of the high security psychiatric Ashworth hospital in Sefton, England, is now considering whether the mind of the mass 'Moors Murderer' Ian Brady, 75, should be reclassified under the Mental Health Act. The trial of Ian Brady's mind, such as it is, is sure to be the subject-matter of many legal, medical and ethical debates over the coming years.
In effect, in colloquial terms, the Tribunal is burdened with the task of deciding as a matter of law, whether Ian Brady is mad or sane and hence whether he should serve out his remaining days in a mental hospital or a prison.
Brady was sentenced along with his accomplice, Myra Hindley, by Mr Justice Atkinson in May 1966 to a term of life imprisonment in a prison. It was not until 1985 that Brady was diagnosed as a psychopath and transferred to a psychiatric institution in Ashworth.
Brady now wishes for that determination to be reconsidered in order that he may end his life in prison by self-starvation; an option not available to a psychiatric patient.
Ian Brady has given evidence and described his acts of torture and murder of his young victims: Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Lesley Ann Downey, Keith Bennet and Edward Evans between July 1963 and October 1965 as an 'existential exercise', as if the distorted and disingenuous deployment of a philosophical term in some manner supports and validates his sanity.
Whether sane or insane, there is no doubt that Ian Brady is evil, although the Tribunal is not of course a court of morals and holds no ecclesiastical authority. I've represented one or two psychopaths myself in front of Mental Health Review Tribunals over the years; what they all had in common was a criminal conviction for acts of brutal murders. But not all of them were evil, and not all of them, from my perspective, were mad. It's a frightening thought that a person may be evil yet sane, but no more frightening to think of someone as evil and mad.
I took some time to remind myself of the brutal acts that Ian Brady and Myra Hiindley perpetrated upon their innocent victims. Even though I was young at the time in 1966, I still remember my mother, a nurse - a caring person, crying with utter despair, shock and horror as the news of the trial filtered into the public domain on the radio, television and newspapers.
For 13 minutes during the trial a tape was played of the dying pleas and cries of Lesley Ann Downey, 10 years old at the time, who was sexually assaulted, beaten and murdered by Ian Brady. The tape, recorded by Brady, was played out to a distressed and traumatized courtroom in the presence of Lesley's mother. The common reaction at the time was that 'hanging's too good for them'. The death penalty, ironically, was abolished in the UK whilst Brady and Hindley were on remand awaiting trial.
Myra Hindley was allowed to smoke herself to death, dying aged 60 in 2002 of a heart disease; a light sentence considering the trial judge's description of Hindley and Brady as "two sadistic killers of utmost depravity".
As a civilized, democratic society we have become disproportionately obsessed with the legal rights of the wrong-doers over the rights of the victims. Perhaps we have simply lost sight of justice, in favour of 'the rule of law'. We have come too far now to mete out sentences that are truly proportional to the crime.
We cannot now contemplate the idea of justice for the families of the victims of Ian Brady. Under our laws Ian Brady is entitled to his 'human rights'; all we can do is ponder at great expense whether he should die in a hospital or a prison. As if it matters, really. Ian Brady deserves to rot in hell for all eternity. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that such a sentence will be enforced. One can but hope.
I hope the Tribunal in the psychiatric Ashworth hospital takes the course which causes the most existential angst to Ian Brady. He is a premeditated child killer; a child rapist and torturer kept alive with the hard-earned money of good law-abiding citizens. That may be consistent with the 'rule of law' but it sure as hell ain't justice.