THE DESPERATE dad of a prisoner languishing in HMP Bullingdon with a serious personality disorder said his son was ‘stuck between a rock and a hard place’.

Several psychiatrists were said to have recommended that prison guard attacker James McGregor, 34 was given a ‘hybrid’ order under section 45A of the Mental Health Act, meaning he could be detained in a psychiatric hospital until he was well enough to serve out the rest of his sentence in prison.

But a ‘gatekeeper assessment’ by an NHS psychiatrist, conducted by a doctor who assessed him for around an hour over a video link, had ruled he could not be detained at Marlborough House, Milton Keynes.

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In a plea to the judge at his son’s sentencing hearing at Oxford Crown Court this week, dad Roy said: “He's now stuck between a rock and a hard place where on the one hand people are saying he shouldn’t go to hospital under a section 37/41 [a more serious Mental Health Act hospital order] – that’s not appropriate – and a section 45A is being denied him.”

He added: “Every time he is about to have any form of mental health help he has been moved from one prison to another.

“He is now back at Bullingdon, he’s on remand, he’s not getting any treatment, his condition has worsened.”

thisisoxfordshire: McGregor carried out some of the assaults when he was at Bullingdon prison Picture: NQMcGregor carried out some of the assaults when he was at Bullingdon prison Picture: NQ

The court heard McGregor’s record of offending began in 2019, culminating in a four year prison sentence imposed in 2020 at Aylesbury Crown Court Judge Francis Sheridan.

Ahead of that sentencing hearing, McGregor had spent 12 weeks at an NHS hospital being assessed to see if he was suitable for a ‘hybrid’ hospital order. It concluded that he may be suitable.

Sentencing McGregor at Oxford Crown Court for a new set of offences this week, Recorder of Oxford Judge Ian Pringle QC said the Aylesbury judge had ‘for reasons best known to himself’ decided against a hybrid order. “It is quite likely he did not do so first of all because the defendant was not engaging in seeking treatment and secondly the assessment was that James McGregor had a personality disorder…and he could have sought help for that condition in prison.”

A similar problem faced Judge Pringle two years on. An NHS psychiatrist told him the treatment was available in the prison and he had been deemed ineligible for a place at Marlborough House.

Judge's difficulty

Jailing him for two years on Wednesday, the Oxford judge said: “I regret to say, because I would have wished to have made a hospital order if it was possible, that I cannot make one because the statutory criteria are not made out in this case.

“[The clinician] says it may be much easier - or easier, certainly - for the defendant to seek some assistance as a prisoner once he has been sentenced.

“Of course, under section 47 of the Mental Health Act he could be transferred to hospital if the prison thought that was appropriate.”

thisisoxfordshire: James McGregor custody shot Picture: TVPJames McGregor custody shot Picture: TVP

Facts of the case

On June 3, 2019, McGregor bit a Buckinghamshire prison officer in the leg. The gaoler had been called to restrain the prisoner, who had struck a fellow inmate and another guard.

Later that year, on December 4, and now in Bullingdon prison, near Bicester, the defendant launched an unprovoked attack on another guard – punching him in the face and leaving him with two black eyes.

On January 30, 2020, a mental health nurse was talking to McGregor about a hospital showing an interest in admitting him. Prosecutor Alex Radley said: “He asked her to call him an ambulance. She asked why and he said they would care for him.”

He went on to rain down punches on the woman. A prison guard who came to her aid was also struck.

The final assault came on March 2. McGregor punched his mother, who was visiting him at the prison, then scrapped with the prison guard who came to her aid.

McGregor, of HMP Bullingdon, admitted two counts of causing actual bodily harm and three assaults on emergency workers.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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