MPs and lords say bill’s compulsory orders are a threat to civil liberties

Measures within the draft Mental Health Bill will force too many
people into compulsory treatment and erode their civil liberties,
MPs and lords warned this week.

A report by the joint committee set up to scrutinise the bill has
concluded that it must be overhauled. Powers within the draft bill
could be used on people who do not pose a significant risk to the
public, it says.

It recommends that the requirement in the bill that people can be
compulsorily treated “for the protection of other persons” should
be changed so it applies only to those who pose “significant

Compulsory treatment should only be used where it is proved to have
therapeutic benefit rather than because it is deemed “appropriate”,
the report adds. Psychiatrists and other professionals had raised
fears that the vagueness of the requirement would force them to
compulsorily treat too many people.

Separate legislation should be drawn up to deal with the small
number of people with personality disorders who would not benefit
from treatment, the report says.

Committee chair Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile said: “This is
an important reminder to the government that the bill is
fundamentally flawed. It is too heavily focused on compulsion and
there are neither the financial resources nor the workforce to
implement it.”

A spokesperson for the Mental Health Alliance, a group of more than
60 groups that oppose the bill, said: “It is clear the scrutiny
committee has understood the issues. It states that the bill should
be about mental health and not dangerousness.”

The committee also recommends that the state has a duty to provide
aftercare for people who have been released after being sectioned
for a long-time for as long as possible, rather than the maximum
six weeks proposed.

The MHA spokesperson said: “We know that aftercare is something
people really rely on.”

Chief executive of mental health charity Maca Gil Hitchon added:
“Having submitted its draft Mental Health Bill to a thorough
scrutiny, the government has to heed the committee’s advice and
substantially alter its plans for reforming the law.”

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