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Thursday, 05 July 2018

Supreme Court president calls for 'yet another' overhaul of mental health laws

Written by Sian Harrison

The UK's most senior judge has called for an overhaul of mental health laws.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale said it is "time for yet another Mental Health Act" to ensure the UK meets its international obligations on human rights.

She said the number of people being detained under the current legislation was "remarkable", having increased by 20,500 in the 10 years up to 2015-16.

Lady Hale said there was no single cause, but "several possible contributors" - including people not receiving care in the community and reduced numbers of hospital beds fuelling the use of compulsory powers.

The judge, who started teaching mental health law in 1970, also said there was increased "risk aversion" among professionals worried about repercussions and "confusion about overlap" with the Mental Capacity Act.

She said she was "hugely attracted" by the idea of combining the Mental Health Act with the Mental Capacity Act.

"It seems to me to come closest to reconciling our conflicting international human rights obligations," she said.

"It is predicated on respect for human dignity and individual values and preferences.

"It does not discriminate between the treatment and care of physical and mental disorders, and covers all kinds of decision making."

Lady Hale made the remarks during a speech at the Royal College of Psychiatrists' annual conference in Birmingham on Sunday.

Prime Minister Theresa May launched an independent review of mental health legislation, headed by psychiatrist Professor Sir Simon Wessely, in October last year amid concern at the rising rates of detention.

In October last year, the United Nations committee on the rights of persons with disabilities recommended that the UK repeal all laws which allow disabled people to be detained against their will.

The committee suggested new legislation be adopted to develop "supported decision-making regimes".

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Victoria Jones / PA Wire.