Ashworth Hospital

Ashworth Hospital is a high security psychiatric hospital at Maghull in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton in MerseysideEngland.

Ashworth is one of only three high-security specialist psychiatric hospitals in England and Wales, along with Rampton and Broadmoor, that exist to work with people who require treatment due to their “dangerous, violent or criminal propensities”. Ashworth was formed from the merger of the old Moss Side Hospital (originally a learning-disability unit once used for the treatment of “shell shock” in World War I) and the vastly more modern and considerably more appropriate Park Lane Hospital, opened as a Broadmoor overspill unit in the early 1970s.

Click to see profiles on BroadmoorRampton and Carstairs “hospitals”

The hospital has had a mixed history and has been the subject of two major public inquiries: Blom-Cooper in 1992 and Fallon in 1998. It currently houses some 275 male patients. The old East site of the hospital has been leased to Her Majesty’s Prison Service, and is now the location of HMP Kennet. A £35m refurbishment of security at the hospital has also taken place.


In the surrounding area of MaghullLydiateMelling and beyond, Ashworth is noted for the weekly test of its alarm system, sounded at 9:00 am every Monday morning. Such an alarm system is audible in much of the surrounding area, as far afield as the outskirts of KirkbyCrosby and Skelmersdale. This alarm system is intended to warn residents and institutions of escapees, of which there have been two in its history as a psychiatric hospital.

Ashworth currently has 17 wards. 2 acute admission wards – Blake ward for those with “mental illness” (schizophrenia etc.) and Arnold ward for those with personality disorders. Patients, on average, spend some 6 years at Ashworth, progressing from Admission ward to High dependancy through to low dependency wards. Patients are admitted to Ashworth Hospital in a range of ways but all come because they present a grave danger to themselves and or other people. 

Life in Ashworth prison

All patients have access to a swimming pool, library, mini-gymnasium, tennis courts,football pitch. It houses approx 275 patients, including 100 in the personality disorder unit. The unit houses people with psychopathic disorders, not schizophrenics. It comprises five locked wards. Each patient has his own room and lavatory and can move freely between the wards, the television lounge with a full Sky Sports package and the games room which includes a pool table.

Patients of note (current and past)

  • “Britain’s Most Violent Prisoner”, Charles Bronson (Michael Gordon Peterson)

  • The “Moors Murderer”, Ian Brady.

  • The “Cardiff Ripper”, Richard Gwilym

  • Robert Sartin, responsible for the Monkseaton shootings

  • Mark Corner, killed and dismembered two women.

Scandals of Ashworth – Fallon inquiry

  • An eight-year-old girl was allowed repeatedly to visit a ward containing patients with personality disorders who had a record of sex offences against children;

  • She was given unsupervised access to one patient who had been convicted of indecent assault and attempted rape;

  • She also visited another patient who had kidnapped, tortured, molested, mutilated and eventually murdered a 13-year-old boy;

  • The report concludes the girl was being “groomed for abuse”;

  • The father of the child brought pornographic videos into the hospital;

  • Patients from the personality disorder ward were allowed to roam around the hospital;

  • Routine searching did not take place;

  • A small group of patients, lead by a child murderer, had intimidated patients and staff;

  • There was a drugs problem on the ward and throughout the whole hospital;

  • There were financial irregularities concerning a shop on the ward which appeared to be dealing in pornographic materials, including videos;

  • A credit card business was being run from the ward;

  • A child murderer ran an unofficial shop from a side ward;

The report found security was almost non-existent. Steven Daggett, the patient who originally drew attention to the problems at Ashworth, was able, while a patient at the unit, to change his name by deed poll, acquire a new passport and driving licence, and use a credit card to take out a large sum of money prior to absconding.

A full scale search in January 1997 revealed a stock of children’s underwear in the room of a man who had molested girls, and male pornography in the room of a child murderer. Both men had VCRs used for copying videos.

 Escape foiled at top-security hospital – Staff at Ashworth top-security hospital in Merseyside have foiled an attempt by a patient to tunnel his way out.The man had spent five days attempting to tunnel through a wall using a digging tool which he had made in a rehabilitation class.He also made a 175-foot rope out of sheets before his escape bid was discovered on Tuesday of last week.A hole, said to be half-an-inch deep and some seven inches in diameter, was discovered in the plaster of a library wall at the hospital’s north site.

Killer ran child sex ring at secure unit

psychopathic killer who kidnapped and murdered a Nuneaton schoolboy ran a paedophile ring at a top-security hospital for some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals. 

The Fallon inquiry, a 500-page report published yesterday on the scandal-ridden Ashworth Special Hospital, found Paul Corrigan was the ringleader of a sophisticated paedophile ring. 

He played a key role in the widespread sale and distribution of illicit pornographic videos at the unit.  Corrigan – labelled as one of Ashworth’s “untouchables” – was found to have 225 tapes in his cell. 

He also paid around Pounds 1,000 to the father of an eight-year-old girl to bring her into the hospital to be “groomed” for paedophile activities, the report confirmed. 

Corrigan, aged 47, who used to live in Caldecote, near Nuneaton, was found with the semi-naked girl in the hospital’s secure unit. He kidnapped 13-year-old John Haddon in 1981 and subjected him to degrading sexual acts with a large knife before dumping his naked body on the A444 between Coventry and Nuneaton. 

The report went on to reveal details of how hardcore pornographic videos were smuggled into Ashworth Hospital as part of a series of scams by patients. 

The Fallon inquiry into the running of Ashworth’s personality disorder unit, which houses some of the country’s most dangerous sex offenders, found a network of schemes designed to thwart hospital rules. A pornography “car boot sale” was allegedly held in the secluded gardens of Lawrence Ward – a low-surveillance unit used to house “highly-trusted” patients. 

The 500-page report found patients were involved in the running of two shops on the ward which were a front for illicit trade in pornography and other banned items. 
 Corrigan and another man with a history of degrading sex attacks on young girls were at the heart of the scheme.

The Fallon report found that a eight-year-old girl was allowed to visit a PDU ward repeatedly. She was allowed unsupervised contact with patients who had a record of sexual abuse against children. The girl was brought into the hospital by her father, who gave her unsupervised access to one patient who had a history of molesting young girls. The report concluded that while there was no evidence of abuse taking place, the child was certainly at risk.

Hospital sex scandal – 1998

A STOCK of children’s clothes was discovered in a ward housing convicted paedophiles at a top security hospital, an inquiry heard yesterday. A STOCK of children‘s clothes was discovered in a ward housing convicted paedophiles at a top security hospital, an inquiry heard yesterday.

Knickers, bras, trousers and dresses were found during a search by staff at Ashworth Hospital in Maghull, Merseyside. The items were discovered during a search prompted by the finding of pornographic videos four months earlier.

It has been alleged at the hearing by an ex-patient that pornographic videos were copied and distributed among patients. It is also claimed that a girl, Child A, who visited two patients, was sometimes dressed only in her knickers on the ward.

Brady and hunger strike – It is estimated that it has cost the public purse more than £10m to keep brady alive for the last ten years.

Moors murderer Ian Brady, pictured in 2001

In his letter Brady condemns what he sees as a waste of public money at Ashworth Hospital where he is held and fires a new broadside at the Mersey Care NHS Trust, responsible for operating the establishment.

Brady also shows that he harbours a deep hatred for the staff at Ashworth, especially members of the Prison Officers Association.

He claims POA staff broke his wrist in September 1999 when a groupe entered his room clad in riot gear and pinned him down for more than an hour while a search was carried out, before he was forcibly moved to a different ward. It was this incident that triggered his hunger strike.

In his letter Brady writes: “I request and expect nothing from the vermin here, except a coffin, and am politically force-fed as they can’t leech a living from dead bodies.”

Brady is kept alive thanks to a liquid nutrition mix which is fed into his stomach through a nasal tube, in an operation carried out twice daily by medics and guards.

He spends most of his day in a room where he has a bed table and bookshelf. He has a radio and is an avid listener to BBC Radio 4.

He drinks only black coffee and since a smoking ban was introduced in July 2007 has abandoned his 40 a day cigarette habit.

Reports that food is sneaked into him – including chocolates – have been rubished by Ashworth insiders.

A rota of guards maintain a permanent suicide watch vigil on Brady with his cell door constantly kept open 24 hours a day.

How the Fallon report changed Ashworth

Fallon recommendations

Among the recommendations of the Fallon inquiry which have been accepted by the government are:

  • The Personality Disorder Unit at Ashworth be managed separately as a small unit, of around 50 patients at most;

  • No more than 8 to 12 patients per ward;

  • Full searches of PDU rooms to be carried out on a regular basis;

  • An independent review of all aspects of physical security at Ashworth, to be repeated at regular intervals;

  • Visitors and staff to be subject to search regimes;

  • No child under the age of 16 should be allowed to visit any patient on a ward at a hospital such as Ashworth;

  • A security intelligence unit to be developed at the hospital;

  • Ashworth should review the control and distribution of prescribed drugs to remove the risk of nurses becoming involved in their illegal distribution;

  • A thorough reviewing of night staffing at the hospital.

The report also recommends the transfer of high security facilities such as Ashworth to regional networks of forensic psychiatric services. It also calls for the urgent provision of more medium secure and long-term medium secure accommodation within the regional networks.

A further recommendation is for the creation of a new sentence called a “reviewable sentence” for people with a severe personality disorder who pose a grave risk to the public.

The sentence would allow a judicially-led body to review the offender’s history and medical record as he approached his earliest release date, and renew his sentence for up to two years at a time if he was deemed to still pose a risk.