HC Deb 12 June 1961 vol 642 cc19-20
31. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health what information he has to show the beneficial or the adverse consequences ensuing from the increase in the number of voluntary mental patients; and, approximately, what is the number or percentage of those patients who curtail such treatment against medical advice.

Mr. Powell

There is wide agreement that the removal of unnecessary restrictions on psychiatric patients is beneficial to them. I regret that the information asked for in the second part of the Question is not available.

Mr. Sorensen

In this case, also, does not the Minister think it worth finding out the information I seek? Is he quite satisfied about the release of patients with psychopathic tendencies in present circumstances?

Mr. Powell

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I do not think that any purpose will be served by doing as he asks, because, of course, many of these people would not be able to be compulsorily detained. The duties of review and so on laid down by the Mental Health Act do impose on those carrying them out the duty of taking into account the risks involved.

Mr. Iremonger

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very serious implications of the question asked by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen)? Is he aware, that, for example, Ronald Derek Sowle, who was charged on 27th April with murdering a 17-year-old girl in Bristol, had just discharged himself from custody in circumstances in which he was, in fact, detainable under the Mental Deficiency Act; and that if we get this wrong and the new Act is wrongly administered the public will lose confidence in the new Act?

Mr. Powell

I am afraid that I must not refer to the specific matter in my hon. Friend's supplementary question because that is sub judice, but, in general, I recognise that attention to security must be the price one pays for the opportunity to carry out a liberal and enlightened policy.