Compulsory treatment orders could be used to detain people indefinitely

Many people, including those with drug and alcohol problems, could
be held indefinitely on compulsory treatment orders under new
proposals for mental health care, MPs have been told.

The warning to the joint committee on the draft mental health bill
came from Mental Health Act Commission chief executive Chris
Higinbotham and Professor Genevra Richardson, who chaired the
expert committee that published a review of the Mental Health Act

Higinbotham told the committee that the commission was concerned
about the way in which compulsory orders could be used on people
who did not necessarily have underlying mental health problems.
Under the orders people can be detained in hospital or given
compulsory treatment in the community.

He said: “No person should be considered to be suffering from
mental health problems solely on the basis of dependence on alcohol
or drugs. The definition of mental disorder [in the bill] is very

Higinbotham said the main concern was that the draft bill could be
used as a controlling agent, particularly for young black people
who are drug users.

He added that this mean the draft bill would be effectively
implemented as an antisocial behaviour order.

He said:”It is clearÉ there will be many more powers [in the
bill] and that many people will come within the terms of the bill.
It will mean more mental health tribunals.”

Richardson said she was concerned that people could end up on
indefinite orders when transferred from hospital to the community.

She said:”I fear there will be a significant increase in the use of
compulsory powers.”

Higinbotham also told the committee the post-tribunal arrangements
were “simply not acceptable”.

He said the way in which the non-resident orders will develop could
lead to “the potential for a civil restriction order without end”.

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