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Four hours of our advice to lose a kilogram? You call that success?

Would you keep a Smirnoff-stealing sociopath out of jail? Our new columnist did

'Keep your eyes open for a number 67 bus. It goes right past Brixton Jail.'

'Why do you want to go past there?'

'Well I don't want to go in!'

These lines from a classic Goon Show ran through my mind as I surveyed the object in front of me: a sweating, shivering, farting, shaven-headed thug named Baz. I have seen this man every fortnight or so for a decade, since I started in this practice.

He's always been a shaven-headed thug, although the sweating, shivering and farting was a new phenomenon.

'I don't want to go to prison, Doc!' he informed me, and I was able to reassure him that these feelings were normal, and that he shared them with the vast majority of the population. However, the vast majority of the population did not share his predicament; in a few weeks he would be up in court, charged with being the accessory to an armed robbery. He was part of a gang that had stolen 2,000 bottles of Smirnoff vodka from a warehouse, and he was looking at a stretch of five years or so as the guest of Her Majesty.

I was a bit surprised that Baz should be so averse to the idea of going to prison again. It's not like he would be new to the experience. It would be a chance to meet old friends, and to spend quality time with several members of his family. But he did not like the idea at all. 'You've got to help me stay outside, Doc!' he urged. 'I was only driving the getaway car, and I was just doing it as a favour for a mate. I didn't even need the money!'

Baz, although a bit deficient in schooling in the traditional sense, was not unintelligent, and he had listened and learnt from some of the psychiatric professionals that he had met at various times over his career. 'I've got a personality disorder. I'm sociopathic. That means that it's not my fault, and you have to write me a letter for the court to tell them it's true.'

Baz is, and always has been, a habitual criminal. At some point, in his various contacts with the legal system and its parasites, he has been told that he has a personality disorder. He has fastened on to this fact like a drowning man hanging on to a lifebelt, and it is now the justification for all his actions. He believes that his personality disorder is an illness, and the excuse for his criminal behaviour.

I agree with him up to a point. I even have a certain amount of sympathy. I think it must be difficult to make your way in life, when your Christian name genuinely is Baz. I believe he is a sociopath; he does not care about the effect of his actions on other people. He thinks this should keep him out of prison. I think, for exactly the same reasons, that they should throw away the key.

I wrote a letter, I won't bore you with the full text, but this is the precis: 'Dear Sir, Baz is a bad sod. He has always been thus. Yours sincerely'.

They gave him a suspended sentence. The next week, a jubilant Baz called in at the surgery with a gift for his caring GP ­ a bottle of Smirnoff vodka.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

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