Mental Health Row Set To Reopen
Controversial laws allowing people with untreatable personality disorders to be detained, even if they have not committed a crime, are to be revived. The draft Mental Health Bill was axed by ministers in March after years of opposition.
But some of the key proposals are to be retained in an amending bill to be announced in the Queen’s Speech.
Campaigners said the plans to update England’s 23-year-old laws would represent an abuse of civil liberties.
The draft Mental Health Bill had proposed allowing people to face compulsory treatment even if their condition could not be treated. Under the plans, they would have been able to be held for 28 days before facing a tribunal.
The bill was first published in 2002 but redrafted several times among much opposition from campaigners, doctors, politicians and academics.
One of the main criticisms was that it made it too easy to detain people with some warning even those with mild conditions may be locked up.
The desire to change the law was largely driven by Michael Stone’s 1998 conviction for the brutal murders of Lin and Megan Russell.
Stone was regarded as a dangerous psychopath but, because his condition was untreatable, he could not be held under mental health powers.
Under the 1983 Mental Health Act patients can be sectioned, but only if their condition is treatable.
The plan to amend the act is expected to be introduced quite soon, possibly before Christmas.
It is likely to propose allowing compulsory therapy if “appropriate treatment will be available”.
Jane Harris, campaigns manager at the Rethink mental health charity, said: “If the government pushes ahead with this it will mean people with mental health problems have fewer rights than someone suspected of burglaries.
“It will be an abuse of our civil liberties.”
And Andy Bell, of the Mental Health Alliance, an umbrella group of charities and professionals, added: “We have some major concerns about this. The law is getting outdated and needs some changing to bring it up to date with human rights legislation.
“But if it goes ahead it will be a missed opportunity.”
It is also expected that the Government will seek to revise the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act to give single women and lesbian couples an entitlement to fertility treatment.
The present law states that fertility doctors should take account of a child’s need for a father before offering a woman treatment, irrespective of whether it is on the National Health Service or private.