HC Deb 07 November 1979 vol 973 cc172-3W
Mr. Heddle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the Government's policy on removing mentally disordered offenders from prison, as recommended in the report of the May committee.

Mr. Whitelaw

The mentally disordered offender presents very real problems which closely involve my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. Both he and I accept that it is undesirable to detain in prison prisoners whose mental disorder permits them to be detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. It is estimated that at any one time some 200 sentenced mentally ill prisoners fall into this category. We shall continue our efforts to have such people transferred to hospitals with appropriate levels of security.

There are, however, a large number of offenders serving prison sentences who exhibit disturbed behaviour but whose mental disorder does not permit their detention in hospital under the terms of the Mental Health Act and I recognise that we must make adequate provision in the prison system for them, just as the National Health Service must make psychiatric care available to them after they are released.