HC Deb 18 October 1982 vol 29 cc134-7
Mr. Pitt

I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 4, line 11, after 'persons', insert 'from serious harm'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 8, in clause 6, page 5, line 31, after 'others', insert 'from serious harm'.

No. 10, in clause 12, page 8, line 44, after 'persons', insert 'from serious harm'.

No. 12, in page 9, line 18, at end insert 'from serious harm'.

No. 19, in clause 37, page 26, line 38, at end insert 'from serious harm' .

No. 20, in page 27, line 6, at end insert 'from serious harm'.

Mr. Pitt

I remind the House of what I said on Second Reading. I said that the Minister should look carefully at a new wording that would apply to the detention of patients who pose a threw of serious harm rather than a minor inconvenience. I quoted a section 65 order made in 1962 involving a person who stole a pair of slippers and committed a minor assault.

Clause 4(2)(c)states that it is necessary for the health or safety of the patient or for the protection of other persons I propose that that should read for the protection of other persons from serious harm. We are considering a basic civil liberties argument. Mentally disordered people should not be locked up to protect people from a minor inconvenience which would not be considered unduly reprehensible if caused by a "normal" individual.

We are discussing the "protection of other persons", but from what? We have no argument against protecting people from attack with a carving knife or some other weapon, but it is not clear that the provision will be so limited. Why cannot the Bill be specific? The Guild of Catholic Doctors says that it is advised that a psychopathic disorder is not a mental illness recognised as such by the medical profession. Particular psychiatrists in the United Kingdom broadly agree that neither abnormally aggressive nor seriously irresponsible conduct is sufficient to indicate that somebody is mentally ill.

Clause 42(1)(b)would make it possible for anyone of any age who exhibited such conduct to be compulsorily detained in a mental hospital, even if he or she had committed no criminal offence, provided that a medical practitioner believed that the treatment was likely to alleviate or prevent deterioration of his conduct. If enacted in its present form, the provision would therefore create a unique new class of people whom the State could deprive of their liberty when they had not offended against its laws and were not mentally ill. No Member of the House would wish that to be inflicted upon people who may have aberrated but who presented no particular physical threat. I am thinking of people who may wander up to one in the street and remonstrate, and perhaps talk continually about football results. I am not referring to people who offer physical violence.

12.15 am

We should examine the words of this clause very carefully. They should be amended and I hope that the Minister will be able to accept my amendment on that basis, for the protection of other persons from serious harm. That is the intention of this part of the clause. It would be far better if it were made so specific as to prevent people from being detained or being taken away merely because they are a nuisance, an inconvenience or an annoyance, when that is not the tenor or the meaning of the clause. In the clause we wish to protect people from serious harm, injury and threat and I hope, on that basis, that the Minister will be able to accept my amendment.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

These amendments were discussed in another place and were not accepted. I hope to persuade the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt) that they ought not to go into the Bill. The hon. Gentleman is confusing a very important distinction between the need to protect other people as a ground for detaining a mentally disordered person for treatment and the more stringent test used by a court in imposing restrictions on the discharge of some offender patients.

The Bill and the Mental Health Act 1959 provide that one of the alternative tests to be net for mentally disordered people to be detained under the civil powers of the Act is the protection of other persons. These amendments would have the condition that it must be from "serious harm". We believe that this is too stringent a test, especially since the same words already appear elsewhere in the Bill but in a very different context.

Clause 27 introduces the phrase the protection of the public from serious harm in the context of a court imposing restrictions on the discharge from hospital of an offender patient. The issue there is surely quite a different one. The decision to send the offender to hospital has already been taken. What the court has then to decide is whether the offence which this person has committed and all his previous history suggest that his discharge may put the public at risk. It is right that if special restrictions are to be put on that person's discharge the risk to the public must be a serious one. That is why we have included clause 27(1) in the Bill. But the decision to impose special restriction is different from the decision to detain a mentally disordered person in the first place, so different criteria are needed. To use the same criteria would have very strange consequences for the important distinction between restricted and unrestricted patients.

I must correct the hon. Gentleman. The Bill does not provide for someone to be detained just because he is a nuisance, and rambles in the street. He must be mentally disordered within the strict meaning of the Act. If he is suffering from psychopathic disorder or mental impairment he must be treatable; his mental state must be such that he needs hospital treatment and it must be impossible to provide it other than by detaining him. Only if all these tests are satisfied does the question arise whether detention is necessary for his own health or protection or alternatively for the protection of others.

I suggest that that strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of the individual, which is what the Bill is all about, and those of the public. It is a balance that we believe the Bill has already tilted further in favour of the individual. I do not believe that it would be helpful to try to circumscribe what the public are being protected from. I hope that on reflection the hon. Gentleman will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Pitt

I listened carefully to the Minister and I am grateful for his exposition. However, I feel that the amendment is fundamental to civil rights, many of which have already been raised in the Bill. The Minister has given a lucid and interesting exposition but on this occasion I cannot withdraw the amendment. I wish it to be put to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 35, Noes 104.

Division No. 307] [12.20 am
Alton, David Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N) McKay, Allen(Penistone)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)
Cocks, Rt Hon M.(B'stol S) Morris, Rt Hon A.(W'shawe)
Cowans, Harry Morton, George
Cryer, BobPitt, Williarn'Henry
Davidson, Arthur Powell, Raymond(Ogmore)
Davis, Terry(B'ham, Stechf'd) Price, C.(Lewisham W)
Dean, Joseph(Leeds West) Skinner, Dennis
Dixon, Donald Spearing, Nigel
Dormand, Jack Thorne, Stan(Preston South)
Eastham, Ken Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Ennals, Rt Hon David Weetch, Ken
Foster, Derek Welsh, Michael
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Young, David(Bolton E)
George, Bruce
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Tellers for the Ayes:
Haynes, Frank Mr. A. J. Beith and
Howells, Geraint Mr. Russell Johnston.
Alexander, Richard Brooke, Hon Peter
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)
Ancram, Michael Bruce-Gardyne, John
Aspinwall, Jack Bulmer, Esmond
Atkinson, David(B'm'th,E) Carlisle, John(Luton West)
Baker, Nicholas(N Dorset) Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Bendall, Vivian Chapman, Sydney
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Clark, Hon A.(Plym'th, S'n)
Berry, Hon Anthony Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)
Best, Keith Cockeram, Eric
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cope, John
Blackburn, John Costain, Sir Albert
Boscawen, Hon Robert Cranborne, Viscount
Bottomley, Peter(W'wich W) Crouch, David
Bright, Graham Dickens, Geoffrey
Brinton, Tim Dover, Denshore
Dunn, Robert(Dartford) Page, Richard(SW Herts)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey
Goodhart, Sir Philip Percival, Sir Ian
Goodhew, Sir Victor Price, Sir David(Eastleigh)
Griffiths, Peter(Portsm'th N) Proctor, K. Harvey
Grist, Ian Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hamilton, Hon A. Renton, Tim
Hampson, Dr Keith Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Heddle, John Roberts, M.(Cardiff NW)
Henderson, Barry Rossi, Hugh
Hooson, Tom Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Jessel, Toby Shaw, Giles(Pudsey)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Shaw, Sir Michael(Scarb')
Lang, Ian Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Lester, Jim(Beeston) Smith, Tim(Beaconsfield)
Lloyd, Peter(Fareham) Speed, Keith
LyeII, Nicholas Speller, Tony
McCrindle, Robert Spicer, Jim(West Dorset)
MacKay, John(Argyll) Stevens, Martin
McNair-Wilson, M.(N'bury) Stradling Thomas, J.
Major, John Taylor, Teddy(S'end E)
Marlow, Antony Temple-Morris, Peter
Mather, Carol Thompson, Donald
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Thorne, Neil(IIford South)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Trippier, David
Mayhew, Patrick van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Mellor, David Viggers, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Waddington, David
Mills, lain(Meriden) Waller, Gary
Moate, Roger Watson, John
Morrison, Hon C.(Devizes) Wells, Bowen
Murphy, Christopher Wheeler, John
Neale, Gerrard Wickenden, Keith
Needham, Richard Wolfson, Mark
Neubert, Michael
Newton, Tony Tellers for the Noes:
Osborn, John Mr.David Hunt and
Page, John(Harrow, West) Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

Question accordingly negatived.

Back to
Forward to