Most studies examining violence in a forensic setting have adopted a statistical approach to associate relevant predictors and the likelihood of violence. Views of patients and nurses have been a relatively neglected research area. This study explored patients’ and nurses’ accounts of violent incidents, considering similarities and differences in their narratives. Permission was obtained from the local National Health Service Research Ethics Board and the Research Ethics Committee of University of East London. Anonymized transcripts were produced from semi-structured interviews conducted in a Medium Secure Unit with four nurses and four patients, who consented to talk at length with the first author about violent events they had witnessed on the Unit. Grounded theory analysis of the data generated a core category, ‘control’, and five constituent themes: the construction of identity of the perpetrator of violence; nurses’ dual role of caring and controlling; aspects of parentalism involved in control; following set policies and procedures; and segregation from mainstream society. Because of widespread social interest and media coverage in the topic, discursive examination was made of aspects of social context arising within the data. This study was small scale and exploratory, and further confirmatory research is needed. Nevertheless, clear contrasts between the nurse and patient accounts indicated tentative suggestions for training (including user involvement) and intervention in managing violent behaviour.