After spending 27 years in Broadmoor, Crowthorne, Berkshire – a high security mental hospital – on Tuesday 8 July 2003 Janet Cresswell was transferred to Thornford Park, a medium secure mental hospital, also in Berkshire. Janet was 45 when she was sent to Broadmoor, she is now 72.
On 9 June 2002, the Independent on Sunday newspaper started a mental health campaign focussing on the proposed changes to the Mental Health Act. Janet was featured in its first story and she has been referred to frequently in subsequent stories.
(This also tied in with a programme broadcast on UK Channel 5 on 23 July 2002 which also featured Janet. See “INSIDE BROADMOOR” message on mentalmagazine discussion board for more details.)
Go to www.independent.co.uk and put “Janet Cresswell”, “mental health campaign” or “Broadmoor” in the “search this site” box to find all stories.
For stories and letters Sunday, 14 July go to:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mentalmagazine/message/1422Feature on Janet Cresswell, 16 June:
The article refers to information on this website but does not mention Mental Magazine uk itself.
For background about Janet Cresswell, read THIS page, go to archives (messages) on the mentalmagazine discussion board and look in the Files section of the mentalmagazine discussion board for more articles by and about Janet Cresswell. Read Janet’s acclaimed play “The One-Sided Wall” performed in London’s Bush Theatre in 1989 and the interview with Janet in the London Evening Standard that explains how the play came to be written.
Writer and performer Nikki Johnson contacted Janet after seeing an article in The Sunday Times in 1987, and together they wrote “The One-Sided Wall” which is the story of how Janet came to be in Broadmoor and has stayed there.
There is no evidence that Janet is suffering from any form of mental disorder – and in an ITV This Week programme broadcast in 1991 about the inappropriate detention of many women in two of the Special Hospitals – Broadmoor and Ashworth – called “Insane Justice”. Dr Chandra Ghosh said of Janet: “It’s very difficult to decide why she was put in a hospital and in fact what psychiatric help she could have been offered. It’s obvious that she hasn’t been offered any help. All we’ve done is actually locked her up.” The programme also stated that a Mental Health Review Tribunal had said she must leave the hospital nearly four years previously.
Nevertheless, the hospital wrote telling me that Janet is suffering from “classic symptoms of a major mental illness”
Although I have known about Janet Cresswell since 1987 when – I read the Sunday Times article, I only contacted her in May 2000 after seeing her name published in the Department of Health November 1999 Report of the Expert Committee into the Review of the Mental Health Act 1983. Janet was listed as one of the people who had submitted comments about the proposed reforms. (See Maudsley debate on 5 July 2001 and News about the consultation on government proposals in the Draft Bill.)
I have visited Janet many times in Broadmoor and have a large number of letters from her mostly handwritten, as well as the stories and articles I have published on the net. Since May 2000 I have been corresponding with her doctor, the hospital authorities, the Home Office, her MP Glenda Jackson and another MP who is on the Health Select Committee, Eileen Gordon, and the Mental Health Act Commission. In May 2001, I had a personal meeting with Janet’s Responsible Medical Officer (RMO) and have also visited the ward she is on and talked to the staff there.
(Before I set up this website) on 7 September 2000, I sent a message about Janet to five Internet mental health discussion boards. You can see this – the first message – and other messages about and from Janet on the MMuk discussion board. You can also find the “user survey” she conducted from within Broadmoor in 1993 and other stories and articles in the Files section of the noticeboard. These include “What’s New?” her thoughts on the proposed changes to the 1983 Mental Health Act – in her view all the new legislation will achieve is to remove the necessity for clinicians to invent a mental disorder to warrant detention.
Janet is detained under the 1983 Mental Health Act and is therefore being held illegally since the authorities can provide no information to substantiate that she is either a danger to the general public nor that she is suffering from any form of mental disorder.
The misapplication of the 1983 Mental Health Act is, in my opinion, why our mental health services are so appalling. You can read more on the page dealing with mental health law and policies.
The following article is reproduced from the Sunday Times colour supplement of March 1987 – “A Day in the Life of….” This feature still appears and is always the last page of the magazine.)
Like me, writer and performer Nikki Johnson read and kept this story and contacted Janet. They went on to write “The One Sided Wall”.
The story reproduced below was written by Janet Cresswell who at the time of the article had been already been an inmate of Broadmoor for 10 years, having been sent there in 1976 at the age of 45. This article is to be repubished by The Sunday Times in September 2003, one of a few selected from the many pieces published over the years. The reason it came to be written is that Janet read “A Life in the Day of Delia Smith” (the tv cookery guru) and thought her life was more interesting!
Janet Cresswell, sent to Broadmoor 10 years ago, describes what its like to be an inmate
A LIFE IN THE DAY OF
Janet Cresswell, 55, was sent to Broadmoor 10 years ago for wounding a psychiatrist in protest at authorities’ refusal to investigate the cause of her psychiatric problems. She was born in Bushey, Herts and went to Watford Grammar. She worked as a secretary and married an architect In 1956, but divorced seven years later; they have one daughter
The doors open and the lights go on at 7am. I don’t get up then but wait for those who want a fag (they have to be washed and dressed to warrant a light) to get out of the way in the wash room. I could never understand the point of getting up at all if there was nothing useful to do, but those at Broadmoor feel differently. I bless my neurotic mother whose cigarette cravings made me a non-smoker since the age of seven.
After breakfast at eight my friend and I play Scrabble: it helps pass boredom time while medication is dispensed. Another friend goes through the Times and Telegraph crosswords and passes them over when she’s finished. It puzzles me that there is so little outcry against psychiatric medicines – I have needed three gynae operations to counteract the drugs I was forced to have some years ago. What a funny National Health Service it is that pays money for having babies in an overcrowded society, gives free heart transplants, sex changes and psychiatry, but charges at a premium for dentistry and glasses.
When ‘All work areas and school’ is called over the Tannoy we assemble until our escorts are ready and the nurse on radio control has signaled we can move. Chaos reigns until we are at work. I am in the sewing room, but not because I can sew. When I am not employed replacing buttons for kitchen overalls or turning up nurses’ uniforms, I perform some other form of handiwork acceptable to the institution. Before I came to Broadmoor, for stabbing a psychiatrist in the backside, I regarded myself as useless at handiwork. After 10 years I still feel I am useless at it but now accept that Broadmoor does not want me to do anything I am good at.
After lunch I make a pot of tea for the ward and sometimes get a reprimand for giving some to the old ladies who reside in the dormitory. They wee improperly but I think it is cruel to deprive them of a hot drink on that account. Time passes quickly here although there is little to show for it. The pace of nothing consists of a round of social and games events which take precedence over work, last on the list of priorities after visits to the hairdresser’s, private visits, school, group therapy and anything else that can be conjured up. The summer is more regimented than the winter as we are made to go en masse into the garden, often for hours on end, with nothing to do. Security is so paranoid that even knitting is prohibited there. Rainy summers, therefore, are not unpopular with many.
Once a fortnight, we women are driven to revolution point when volunteer men come over for a chat. This is called a games evening, and the women have to attend – even those in bath chairs. This is one of the few forced social events and a case for women’s liberation. However, as the issue is a trivial example of arrogance towards human rights, we do not complain too bitterly. Most of us realize that the social functions are more to justify staff employment than entertain us.
I don’t believe in religion, but was surprised that one visitor, whose aim was a spiritual world and getting me out of Broadmoor, was banned from seeing me. Frankly, I can think of nothing worse than a spiritual world, except a medical one, but my visitor was of the opinion that if I could believe in something then some group would get interested in me and get me out. He felt that individuals did not have a chance. One or two friends did make approaches to the Home Office. I didn’t think I would be in Broadmoor 10 years and am resigned to never having justice at all.
We have mounds of official visitors round from various parts of the empire. Guessing who they are is a game that has palled with such repetition. The police bound in like football teams, magistrates look tweedily well-dressed, health visitors clean and well-spoken, social workers and psychiatric nurses are usually a mixed, scruffy bunch, frequently clutching plastic bags as though on an outing to Brighton, while doctors, MPs and reps from the Home Office and DHSS are shown round in small parties escorted by what is termed ‘the hierarchy’. One wonders what they have come to see.
One day there were 20 social workers from Hackney – I can recall no business firm which can manage with so many of its personnel missing on a day’s outing. Last week there were four different parties here, including a batch of Japanese, complete with cameras and an interpreter. I wondered aloud if they were here to boost the British tourist industry and one patient rushed up to them to ask who they were. ‘Doctors’ was the reply.
Mug shots are renewed each time we change hairstyle, or every five years. One woman was recently photographed in each of her five wigs, but my hair grows so quickly that I merely have mine taken at the statutory time. So determined am I to conform to Broadmoor’s description of me that I make myself look as awful as possible without actually drawing attention to myself. I screw up my nose ever so slightly and lift one side of my mouth to produce a sort of hare-lip effect. l am quite convinced that, in the event of my escape, my blown-up picture would precipitate the most anti member of the public to co-operate with the police.
One recent escapee, a friend from the room next door whom I miss enormously, has a gentle face and her photo on television gave the reverse impression of the description given of her. Looking far more manic, the MP who appeared on BBC raved that killers should not be allowed on outings from Broadmoor. I quite agree with him, but realize his definition of who is a danger to the general public is somewhat exaggerated. My friend hopped off from an outing when reaching the underwear section of Marks & Spencer. While the police were looking for her I wondered if she was having breakfast at Fortnum’s. The question of outings is a tricky one, the policy of mixing hard-luck cases with the hardened ones is difficult to explain.
The notice board in the corridor has inherited one more bit of paper, this time the tennis draw for the female wing. We’ve not played tennis for years and the sudden enthusiasm is difficult to fathom. The fellow who has arranged the draw has made three to appear in the finals – perhaps he is changing the game to pig in the middle.
The library van comes over (from the male side) once a fortnight – it has been out of action for some weeks – and books on prison life are well read. Charriere’s Papillon and Ranco remind us that Devil’s Island has been closed as a penal colony and things here could be worse. Solzy-whatshisname’s Gulag and similar amaze me – how did he maintain that writing style through thousands of pages? How similar are the thoughts of prisoners east and west. I have just finished a book sent to me from the States which compares psychiatry under Hitler and in America today. It’s interesting reading and I wonder who I dare lend it to.
I pass the time playing cards, reading, knitting and so on. I am rarely sad to get locked up again at 9pm. I don’t have night sedation, issued just beforehand. I have a clear conscience and mostly the only things that keep me awake are the floodlighting the builders have erected outside and also the flashing of the nurses’ torches and their heavy foot-steps as they come round on their night inspection.
|(c) Times Newspapers Ltd, 1987.|
OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT JANET CRESSWELL’s NIGHTMARISH CASE:
“After a lifetime in Broadmoor (mental hospital), the writer Janet Creswell is free at last”
Woman whose case inspired ‘IoS’ campaign tells of her joy at release – and her enduring anger
By Sophie Goodchild, Chief Reporter
Sunday, 21 January 2007
High Security Hospitals: Janet Creswell has been in for 22 years.
If she admits she’s mad, they’ll let her out
By Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent.
Sunday, 21 January 2007.
3. Janet Cresswell in The Independent on Sunday 16 June .
Today, Janet Cresswell is mentioned in one of the articles pasted by Raymond from the wnusp board – below my message –
I have pasted the special story on Janet ( which included a picture of her taken in 1989 used in an article published in the London Evening Standard on 23 February 1989.. The text of the Evening Standard article can be found in the Files section of the Mental Magazine discussion board at
The journalist,Sophie Goodchild, emailed me on the day of her deadline for the story(Friday, 14 June), but I didn’t read the email till Saturday, so I was not involved with the article – although the story has clearly “lifted” some information from the website. The story is accurate apart from stating that Janet has been in Broadmoor for 22 years – she has actually been there for 26 years.
High Security Hospitals: Janet’s been in for 22 years. If she admits she’s mad, they’ll let her out.
By Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent.
16 June 2002.
Case study: Janet’s been in for 22 years. If she admits she’s mad, they’ll let her out.
Janet Cresswell, like other patients held in Broadmoor, is not allowed glass in case she harms herself. On her 71st birthday this year, the writer had to use a plastic chamber pot to display the bouquet of freesias and carnations from her daughter.
deemed eligible for transfer to a bed in a medium secure unit. She refuses to go under the supervision of a Home Office psychiatrist. She refuses because, she says, she is not mad.
When this newspaper highlighted her case two years ago, Ms Cresswell was receiving neither medication nor psychotherapy. However, just days after the story was published, the grandmother was taken to the intensive care wing at Broadmoor and forced to take anti-psychotic medication against her will.
essays and a play, The One Sided Wall, which was performed at London’s Bush Theatre. She won the Arthur Koestler prize for an essay on the history of Bedlam, the notorious lunatic asylum.
Found they couldn’t get out so kicked up a din.
‘Can’t stand that’ said the minders,
And found other jobs – like scouts for odd bobs.
So the minders’ minders got grim.
They searched through their statute books
For old tricks with new looks,
How tiresome of people to see through old hat.
Trying, tribunal, tri’s three and bin all.
No, not Triad, tribunal, try gooning for all, annually.
Shut everyone away, but make them all play.
And when they’re tired of the game turn away.
When tiredness wins out,
It’s the time to get out.
And start up the game a new way.
“Campaigning for good health and social care…it’s for everyone”.
Sent: Sunday, June 16, 2002 8:38 AM
Subject: [wnusp] Scientist attacks ‘gutless’ mental health policy.
By Sophie Goodchild, Home Affairs Correspondent
16 June 2002
A leading scientist has attacked the Government for its “ignorant” and intellectually dishonest record on mental health policy.
There are no official figures on how many prisoners should be in secure hospitals but there are more than 5,000 mentally ill people at any one time held in prison.
PLEASE ALSO READ JANET CRESSWELL’s ARTICLE “IS THERE A CONTRACT ON YOUR LIFE?” WHICH I HAVE TRANSLATED INTO VARIOUS LANGUAGES