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Mr John Crossland                                                                                                         Críona Wilson
Kings House
Grand Avenue

Dear Mr Crossland,

I am writing with a complaint against Catherine Connolly the Approved Social Worker who was associated with my daughter, Sophia Mirza, from 2000 - 2003. In 2003 she was instrumental in having my daughter 'sectioned'. After 13 days and following a tribunal, my daughter, Sophia, was released. It was too late - irreparable damage had been done.

I would like to give you an idea of Sophia's life prior to and during her final years so that you can get an overall view of her character, her abilities and how M.E. affected her.

When Sophia was young she joined 'Woodcraft'. She loved it. She used to attend their weekly groups as well as going camping with them. She became very aware of being her own person, recycling and the eco-movement, in general. Later on, although diagnosed as having dyslexia at the too late age of 17, she did a degree in art whilst, all the time, keeping alive her deep interest in organic foods, yoga, camping, cycling, music and a belief in personal responsibility. She incorporated her art into all of these. She had a zest for life, second to none. She believed that all of us were responsible for what we did and that we should not accept bullying to ourselves or others.

Sophia was the youngest of my four children. As a child she had chickenpox. When she was 17 she was a passenger in two separate car crashes. Shortly afterwards, she was hospitalised with suspected meningitis and was given a lumbar puncture. At 19, she went travelling and working in Africa, before which she had to have multiple vaccinations. Whilst in Africa she had two doses of malaria.

In 1999, Sophia got the 'flu. She could not recover from it. By December of that year, she could only leave her bed to have a bath. By September 2000, she became supremely ill and was bed bound. Sophia's room had to be completely "blacked-out" and she also wore eye pads, as any form of light seared her eyes and affected her in other ways. She had to wear ear-plugs as any noise or sound, even the sound of a voice, made her even more ill. She could not bear to be touched for the same reason, even though she craved the human touch and the comfort it gave. Since that time she had been unable to have either a bath or a hair wash as water also magnified her symptoms. She was only able to lie on her right side. Her body clock moved around constantly. She also suffered the numerous symptoms that people with M.E. suffer, such as: concentration difficulties; earache; sore throat; stiff neck; digestive problems; nausea and vomiting; joint pains; muscle weakness; cramps; backache; extreme fatigue; dizziness; enlarged lymph glands; insomnia; and, weight changes. She had, for most of this time, been unable to speak. She had been unable to read or write, listen to the radio or have any electrical equipment in her room. She was unable to have visitors. Her G.P. was at a loss as to what to do. She suggested that I put Sophia "away in a home and get on with the rest of my life". I did not agree with her. Years ago, I had nursed patients with all sorts of diseases; never had I seen anyone so profoundly ill in so many diverse ways, as Sophia.

From January 2003, Sophia had started to improve. She was able to tolerate some light, talk, sit-up and have a few visitors. Despite this, six months later the professionals "Sectioned" her and incarcerated her in a mental hospital. The basis for this was thatshe had refused to go into a particular M.E. clinic. She was released 13 days later by a tribunal. However, it was too late and the damage to her physical health had been done. She became more ill than she ever had been, if that were possible. There was no help to be had unless less she agreed to be treated as having a mental problem. This she could not agree to do.Sophia died on 25th November 2005. I have never met a person of such integrity and courage. It was a privilege to have known her.


We were not allowed to bury Sophia for two months after she died as tests for the post mortem were taking place.They could not find a cause of death with the tests. The family asked the coroner that Sophia's spinal cord should be sent away for independent research. She kindly agreed. The results showed that there was necropsy spinal cord tissues including dorsal root ganglia: Dorsal Root Ganglionitis .


The inquest took place on 13th June 2006. The coroner gave the verdict of - death as a result of acute renal failure arising from the effects of chronic fatigue syndrome.


I am writing this complaint because for me there are too many unanswered questions. I have been given to understand that it is not possible for me to complain as:-

a) Too much time has elapsed

b) The fact that a Tribunal released Sophia from the mental hospital had, in itself addressed the situation.

I would like to address the time factor first. Given that Sophia elected not to go to the ME clinic at Romford hospital and as a direct result of this was sectioned, as threatened by the psychiatrist, Dr Baginski, it was not possible for her to make a complaint as to do so could have ensured her another 'Sectioning'.

After her death I had to wait until, not only the results of the post mortem came through, but also, the independent tests on her spinal cord. As well as this the inquest only took place in June of this year and I did not wish to pre-empt it.

It has been said that because the Tribunal released Sophia that the question of Catherine Connolly's professional behaviour had been addressed. I do not agree.

On 16th Oct. 2000 Catherine Connolly first contacted Sophia[1].Sophia wanted nothing to do with the CMHT [2]. There followed various letters [3,4,5] thereafter.

On 6th Aug. 2001, Dr Firth wrote to Catherine Connolly pointing out that she, Dr Firth, was been driven by fear of legal action. She also confirmed myfears of Sophia being removed from her home (which she had previously told me would not happen). She also spoke about the ME Centre. [6]

On lst Oct 2002, Catherine Connolly saw Sophia for the first time with Dr Firth. In her report she wrote ...."there were insufficient grounds for detention under section of the Mental Health- Act" "If Sophia proves unable to attend the Chronic Fatigue services, or if her mother colludes in her not attending, we may need to review the situation in the light of health risks to Sophia"[7]

On 1st Jan 2003,Dr Baginski says that he does not agree with Dr Firth's wish to have me, Sophia's mother sectioned [8]

On 30th Jan 2003 I updated Dr Firth about Sophia's progress. It was the best it had been in years. I also wrote about his threats to Sophia and to me [9]

On 11th Feb.2003 Dr Firth acknowledged the considerable improvement. She mentioned Grade 4 ME, also the fact that she could no longer be her doctor if Sophia did not agree to the involvement of the CMHT [10]

On 12th Feb. 2003 Dr Baginski wrote to Dr Firth confirming his communications with
Romford hospital and the action that would be taken if Sophia did not agree to go there i.e. Sectioning[11]

On 17th May 2003 I wrote- a detailed letter to Dr Rosenberg after Dr Baginski, Dr Firth and Catherine Connolly first tried to gain entry to Sophia's flat to section her[12]. Copies of this were sent to Mr Hogan and Mr Long and Mr Barry [13, 14, 15]. I subsequently wrote to Mr Needle [16]

On 23rd June 2003 Catherine-Connolly applied for a warrant to remove Sophia from her home. Within this document there is an absolute ignorance of severe ME and it's effects. Ms Connolly was parsimonious with the truth to a frightening degree [17]

Onl1th July 2003 Ms Connolly, her colleagues and the police broke down the door to Sophia's flat. Despite it being Sophia's 'night time' they put on her light and subjected her to their assessment, not allowing any family or friend in the room to support Sophia. She was then Sectioned. [18]and [19]

On 24th July 2003 the Tribunal released Sophia. It was too late. The damage had been done.Sophia had a severe reaction and became more ill than she had ever been. She never recovered from it and died on 25th November 2005.

The post mortem tests could find no cause of death. The family asked for Sophia's spinal cord to be sent away for independent research. The results showed that she had "Necropsy spinal cord tissues including dorsal root ganglia: Dorsal Root Ganglionitis. This would have accounted for her many and varied severe symptoms [20].


The above are just a few of the papers pertaining to the professionals' treatment of Sophia. Many more are available.Although Ms Connolly wrote about, and to, Sophia, she actually only saw her once; that was in October 2002. At that stage Sophia was very ill, yet it was deemed then that there were insufficient grounds for 'sectioning'. Even at that stage Ms Connolly was aware of Sophia's reservations about the ME clinic at Romford hospital.

Sophia had asked me to research the clinic. I spoke to some ex-patients who said that although it ostensibly was a neurological clinic, it was run on the lines of mental health. Also, if patients did not get better, they were given a different diagnosis before leaving. I myself phoned ]ill Slorance at the hospital - she was the chief therapist there. I asked her what the long-term prognosis was for those with severe ME? After some time she told me that they revert to the point they were at prior to going into the clinic. Sophia made a valid, informed decision not to go into this clinic. Sophia had the mental capacity to make this choice; yet she was ignored.

My understanding of Section 2 of the Mental Health Act is that it has to conform to definite criteria i.e. :-

a)That the patient is suffering from a mental disorder of a nature or degree which warrants the detention of the patient in a hospital for assessment for at least a limited period: and

b)The patient ought to be so detained in the interests of his own health or safety or with a view to the protection of others.

In October, when Sophia was seen by Ms Connolly, she did not fit into this category. It was well known that Sophia had grade 4 ME. It has been well documented that if Sophia did not agree to go into the ME clinic (which was for a physical neurological illness), then she would be sectioned in a mental hospital. This flies in the face of The World Health Organisation, who, since 1969 has said that ME is a physical neurological disease, not a mental illness.

I would like to bring to your attention the following relevant references, which Ms Connolly could easily have found at the time:

1) A letter from Graham Butland, Chief Executive, South Essex NHS Health Authority, 22 August 2001, to a patient with ME.Mr Butland refers to the treatment for ME offered by Prof Findley at Oldchurch Hospital, Romford, Essex, "With regard to the treatment offered by Dr Findley, the Authority has looked carefully at the regimes but concluded that there was no strong evidence that any clinicalbenefit was gained by patients and it is -as decided not to use the service he offered.

2) BBC News, 11 January 2002: a BBC News online article following the publication of the CMO's Report on CFS/ME in January 2002. Sir Liam Donaldson, CMO, states, "CFS/ME should be classed as a chronic condition with long term effects on health, alongside other illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease. "

3)The CMO's Report, Jan 2002, 4.4.2 states, "Therapeutic Strategies – The Working Group agrees that there is no cure for CFS/ME....

4)House of Commons Hansard debates for 6 February 2002, Column 304WH onwards. This is a debate on ME/CFS following the publication of the CMO's Report in January 2002. The Minister for Health's response included a statement (column 310)that patients with chronic illnesses should be empowered to become key decision makers in their own care.

5)House of Lord Hansard von 633 No 120, 16 April 2002, page 894 onwards. Lord Hunt, Under-Secretary of State, DoH, states, "On behalf of the Government I would like to make it absolutely clear that we endorse the view that this (CFS/ME) is a chronic illness, that health and social care professionals should recognize it as such " "First, there are no agreed diagnostic criteria......... secondly, we do not know the cause of CFS/ME ..... ... .... thirdly there is no Dine form of treatment to suit every patient, but treatment to relieve the wide variety, of symptoms that which individuals can experience ence has to be a matter for individual doctors, to be taken in consultation with their patients.Fourthly, we are aware that there is controversy about some ofthe approaches used for Managing CFS/ME. ... ... ... .. ... We need - and must- ensure that patients do not feel themselves forced into the position of having to accept only one particular therapy. "

After the first attempt to Section Sophia by the professionals, including Ms Connelly, in May 2003, Sylvia King-, a solicitor who specialises inMental Health, visited Sophia, having first seen a video that had been made of her. She wrote to Sophia that in her opinion she did not fit into the category of a person who needed to be sectioned.

By June 2003 Sophia had shown vast improvements, yet she was sectioned. Ms Connolly appeared to make the application at the behest of the doctors, and not, as she should have done, as an individual social worker. It should not have been a departmental decision.

Ms Connolly totally ignored Sophia's many and varied severe physical symptoms and decided that these were imaginary, brought on by Sophia herself. The post mortem and the inquest categorically prove otherwise. Ms Connolly was not in a position to make such a judgment.

On the 11th July 2003 when the police broke down the front door and the three professionals barged into Sophia's room while she was asleep, it would seem that Ms Connolly ignored all the professional guidelines as regards 'appropriate behaviour' and also refused Sophia any support from another person. My understanding is that before making an application, the ASW must interview the patient 'in a suitable manner', and besatisfied that compulsory admission is the most appropriate way of providing the care and medical treatment which the patient needs (s.13 (2)). This did not happen.

In her report Ms Connolly said that'hospital admission for assessment purpose was strongly indicated'. In the same report she answered 'nil' to the area "Consideration of alternatives to detention", when it was obvious from all the paperwork that the ME clinic had been involved. Given that the basis for such an admission was Sophia's measured refusal to go to a clinic that had negative results, I do not see that this assessment was valid.

At the end of the assessment Sophia begged to be allowed to go to the ME Clinic, rather than be sectioned. This was not allowed.

I do believe that Catherine Connolly ASW acted in an inhumane and unprofessional manner that was not within her powers.I believe thatshe was solely influenced / guided by both Dr Firth and Dr Baginski and not by the condition of the patient, Sophia. I do believe that there was a great degree of mendacity in her paperwork. I do believe that for all of these reasons she must be accountable for the damage she did to Sophia. It will not bring Sophia back to us, but it might help other families in the future and give some sort of credibility to the profession called 'social work'

Yours sincerely

Criona Wilson

cc. Mr Ian Long, Director of Social Services.


  1   16 10 2000    Catherine Connolly, Social Worker, - Sophia

  2   30 12 1999    Dr Firth- Professor Pinching

  6   06 08 2001    Dr Firth-Catherine Connolly re ‘medical neglect' and' forcible hospital admission*

  7   01 10 2002    Catherine Connolly-Dr Baginski "... insufficient grounds for detention under section of the Mental Health Act..." *

  8   02 01 2003    Dr Baginski-Dr Firth "..You also expressed your readiness to assess her mother under theMental Health Act..."

  9   30 01 2003    Mrs.Wilson - Dr Firth, update on Sophia and interview by Dr Baginski *

10   11 02 2003    Dr Firth - Dr Baginski re Grade 4 M.E., also her reasons for not continuing as her GP

11   12 02 2003    Dr Baginski - Dr Firth confirming admission under Section 2 should Sophia refuse to go into the Chronic Fatigue Unit in Romford

16   17 05 2003    Mrs.Wilson - Dr Rosenberg, Acting Chief Executive and Medical Director South DownsHealth NHS Trust *

17   23 06 2003    Warrant to search for and remove Sophia made by Catherine Connolly.

18   23 06 2003    Application by Social Worker for admission to mental hospital.

19   23 06 2003    Aproved Social Worker report and record of work done.


20   29 11 2006     Terry Pegler to Criona Wilson. *

21   19 04 2007     Criona Wilson to Mr. John Crossland. *

22   07 07 2007     Criona Wilson to the investigating officer. *

23   11 07 2007     STATEMENT OF COMPLAINT. *

24   25 06 2003     S. King, solicitor to Sophia *

25      undated      Statement by Shane Wilson,Sophia's brother, to the independant investigating officer. *

26   25 10 2007     Report from the independent investigating officer. *

27   23 11 2007     Michael Mergler (Adjudicating officer) to Criona Wilson. *