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December 6th 2018

Civil Liberties

People with serious mental health problems must have more rights when detained as review recommends

Leanne Stephenson

Leanne Stephenson

Solicitor, Civil Liberties

People with serious mental health problems must have more rights when detained as review recommends

Our teams at Hudgell Solicitors welcome the findings of a review into the treatment of people with serious mental health problems which has concluded they should be given greater rights when detained for treatment.

Our teams at Hudgell Solicitors welcome the findings of a review into the treatment of people with serious mental health problems which has concluded they should be given greater rights when detained for treatment.

A year-long independent review, ordered by Theresa May and led by Prof Sir Simon Wessely, an ex-president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has highlighted the ‘traumatic’ and ‘damaging’ impact of patients being detained.

The review has spent the last year examining why growing numbers of people are being detained, and the “uncaring” way in which some locked-up patients end up being looked after.

It says sectioning powers are being misused and that the current 1983 Mental Health Act does not properly protect patients’ rights.

In our work challenging the actions of police forces and their officers, poor treatment of people with mental health problems is something we sadly see far too many examples of.

Many police forces still appear to be some way off having effective procedures in place for dealing with incidents involving people with mental health problems.

This report puts forward a series of recommendations aimed at modernising the Mental Health Act and says patients should have an extension of their rights when detained.

This includes bringing an end to police cells being used as a place of safety, less frequent use of police cars to transport patients and more frequent opportunities to challenge detention.

We see far too many cases where police officers who come into contact with people with serious mental health problems are not suitably trained and prepared to handle the matter appropriately,

We therefore welcome the suggested changes, as the impact of placing somebody in a police van or cell like criminals, when they are actually in need of experienced and qualified help, can prove irreversibly damaging.

Indeed, we recently represented a woman in case which resulted in the Metropolitan Police Service agreeing to pay damages to our client, who was mental health patient, but was arrested and locked in a cell after calling for help when feeling suicidal.

We also welcome recommendations that a death under Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards/Liberty Protection Safeguards in a mental health setting should be considered to be a death in state detention, for purposes of triggering an inquest with a jury, known as Article 2 inquests, providing greater transparency of the care provided, and ensuring serious questions are asked and that lessons can be learned.

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