Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Street danger

November 05 2013
We must make Big Issue sellers safer, says Bird


The founder of The Big Issue, John Bird, has voiced his concerns about cuts to mental health services as the man who killed two Big Issue sellers on the streets earlier this year, was convicted.

John Ward, 23, was last month sentenced to life imprisonment for the fatal stabbing of Wayne Busst, 32 and Ian Watson-Gladwish, 31, in Birmingham city centre on January 11.

Ward was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was homeless at the time of the attack. He said that voices in his head told him to “kill everyone” and claimed diminished responsibility at his trial. He will serve a minimum of 12 years.

Mr Bird said the case had implications for the way Big Issue sellers work on the streets. He says he’s looking at training vendors to work on the magazine’s digital content and negotiating safer pitches in shopping centres and supermarkets.

He told the Guardian: “Life on the street is getting more dangerous. The streets are filling up with people who would have been treated within a mental health environment in the past.”

Freedom of Information requests from the BBC and Community Care magazine have revealed that over 1,700 psychiatric beds have been closed since 2011.

The court heard that Ward had travelled by train from London, following an argument with his mother.

On arriving in Birmingham Ward bought a 20cm kitchen knife, a bottle of whisky and some heroin, which he smoked.

Commuters described his meeting with Busst and Watson-Gladwish as convivial, so Ward’s sudden and frenzied attack was watched with shock and horror.

At the trial, the court heard that Ward stabbed Busst so fiercely into that he struck bone. Watson-Gladwish was stabbed when he tried to help Busst. Ward discarded his weapon and made his way to a cinema, where he remained, cleaning the blood from his hands and face with napkins, until the police arrived to arrest him

During mitigation Michael Duck, QC, said that Ward had grown up in an abusive home, where drug and alcohol abuse was commonplace. He started drinking age nine and was taking heroin by his early teens. This was when he was taken into care, where he suffered sexual abuse.

Care Minister, Norman Lamb told the BBC that: ‘Current levels of access to mental health treatment are unacceptable. There is an institutional bias in the NHS against mental health and I am determined to end this.’