HC Deb 03 February 1977 vol 925 cc718-9
1. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied that just and effective procedures are available in cases where individuals who may have been found unfit to plead to serious criminal charges subsequently experience marked improvement in their mental state.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Rrynmor John)

There are inherent difficulties in dealing with the situation of persons who are mentally unfit to stand trial. The whole area of the law governing mental disability in relation to criminal trial is currently under review, in the light of the recommendations of Lord Butler's Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders.

Mr. Hardy

Does my hon. Friend accept that in cases such as that involving my constituent, Ian Adams, the process of consideration seems to be extremely protracted? Does my hon. Friend agree that as individual liberty is so important, urgent consideration should be given to there being no detention unless there has been aconviction?

Mr. John

My hon. Friend will realise that there are complex matters to be considered when referring to the case of his constituent, Mr. Adams. The Director of Public Prosecutions is currently considering whether a trial is appropriate. As soon as I have a reply I shall contact my hon. Friend.

Mr. Cormack

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable disquiet at the rumours surrounding the prisoner Myra Hindley? Will he still the anxiety of those who fear that she will be released soon?

Mr. John

The hon. Member will know that there is a procedure which must be gone through before any life sentence prisoner is released on licence. All that I can tell the hon. Member is what I have told other hon. Members in correspondence—that there is certainly no prospect of an early release for Miss Hindley.

Mr. Christopher Price

When reviewing the position of mentally retarded people before the courts, will my hon. Friend bear in mind not only the Butler Committee but the Fisher Report, since that concerns the Confait case, involving a constituent of mine who has a mental age of eight and who managed to confess to a murder that he could not have committed? Will my hon. Friend take the Fisher Report into full account?

Mr. John

Of course I shall take the report into account. It is an extremely serious report, which obviously we shall bear in mind. However, the subject of the Question was unfitness to plead, whereas in the Confait case that was not so.