I mentioned that the Government had recently announced a review of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Well, the public consultation is now out and you have your chance to have your say. I would encourage as many people as possible to answer this request for views, whether you are an interested member of the public or a professional of any kind.
The final deadline for this consultation is 3rd June 2014 and it consists of a questionnaire with opportunity to add free comments. You can read about the review and see the questions posed and you can also email the review team, should you wish to provide case studies of relevance to your view. Their email address is —
Review of S135 and S136 Project Team,
Disability and Equality Division
Department of Health
You can also obtain Braille, large font or audio formats of the consultation via the contact details or email address, above.
Bear this in mind as you contemplate your response: the legislation we currently use to ensure the safeguarding and wellbeing of vulnerable people was written in the 1950s. This was before we rightly desinstitutionalised our mental healthcare system, before antipsychotic and anti-depressant medications were widely used and before we saw the retreat of our mental health services and the erosion of emergency mental healthcare. The police service has become relied upon more and more to ensure people don’t fall through the gaps and we’ve seen in case-law over the last twenty years who officers have felt obliged to become “inventive” using other laws, to safeguard people. We have also seen, like in cases such as Webley v St George’s how the police are often compelled to criminalise vulnerable people in order to keep them safe, for a want of other options.
I merely make the argument that we do have a problem. The solution could take many forms and I fully accept that we need to ensure human rights and civil liberties protections in anything that we decide to do. We need modern mental health law fit for the 21st century, but that could look like any number of things. It has been said that the police becoming increasingly vocal on the issue of our legal and health systems is overpowering the argument. I can actually accept very fully that this is true – it is therefore important that the other professionals and the public, especially service users, put their views forward to ensure we get the law we need, with any necessary safeguards we require, to keep people safe.
This opportunity to modernise the legislation used in emergency mental health care may not happen again in our lifetime – so make sure you have your say.
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