Sunday, April 22, 2007

Labour’s ‘inhumane’ Mental Health Bill

There is nothing more repressive or repugnant, or indicative of a move towards totalitarianism, than the Government’s decision to lock away the innocent. Yet this is precisely what is proposed in Labour’s Mental Health Bill. Beneath the guise of ‘protecting the public’, the mentally ill could be incarcerated indefinitely without any crime being committed. The policy is straight out of Minority Report - a film which portrays a world in which crime is predicted, and the innocent are arrested before they get the chance to realise their criminality. But while super-computers may be deemed capable of the infallible dispensation of justice, the Government has no such attribute of divinty.

There is no presumption of innocence in this Bill, and it effectively creates a psychiatric asbo; it will deprive ‘offenders’ of their liberty because the greater good lies in the protection of society. It is not that they have done anything wrong; merely that they are more likely to. The Labour peer Lord Bragg observes: ‘It would be cowardly of the Government to allow its policy to be driven by tabloid hysteria about the very, very rare, though of course deeply regrettable, incidences of murder and assault committed by people with severe mental health problems. The way to cure that is to improve probation and not resort to lock-them-up legislation, which is inhumane, inefficient and, above, all unfair.’

In his essay On the Character of a Modern European State, Michael Oakeshott observed the two modes of association known to Roman law – societas and universitas. Intrinsic to the former are democratic institutions and participation, while the latter lays an emphasis on centralised government and teleological leadership - at whose extreme lies totalitarianism. In the absence of a codified constitution, the United Kingdom has developed over the centuries the notion of ‘reasonableness’ in coordinating the workings of the state, and societas has prevailed. But we are no longer dealing with a reasonable government. We are dealing with one that is failing to respect traditional constitutional values of justice and balance. This government believes less in participative democracy than in governing as an exercise in domination. With each increasingly authoritarian proposal, they remove a constitutional safeguard or gather more power to the executive. Societas is supplanted with universitas, and our liberties are diminished incrementally.

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of the Mental Health Bill is that the ‘lock-them-up-legislation’ extends to children. The charity Young Minds says that 1000 children a year are admitted to adult mental health wards, ‘putting them at risk of physical and sexual abuse’. Unlike the prison system, there is no mental-health equivalent of a young offenders’ institution, and so there is no acknowledgement that their treatment may need to be quite different from that meted out to adults.

The Government needs to think again on this one, not least because of the ‘mental health time-bomb’ which is latent in our everyday lives. Apparently, the risk to our brains from the preponderance of wireless networks is every bit as dangerous as the radiation emitted from mobile phones. It is not only airports, coffee shops, or schools which have radio networks, but whole cities are adopting the technology, subjecting unwitting populations to an ‘electronic smog’ which increases the likelihood of brain tumours. A recent authoritative Swedish study has also found that the radiation kills off brain cells, ‘which could lead to today's younger generation going senile in their forties and fifties’.

Senile at forty? What will the Government do? Lock them all up? Won’t prison overcrowding soon be followed by asylum overcrowding?

Better, perhaps, to put them in Parliament, where their mental deficiencies are unlikely to be distinguishable from those of the present inmates.


Anonymous Voyager said...

All those who think Seung-Hui Cho should have been put into an asylum before he implemented his planned massacre are caught in an invidious position by this proposed legislation.

There were in Virginia statutes which prevented the University from exmatriculating this student for anything but academic failure; and a raft of civil rights protections prevented him from being confined to an institution against his will unless clear evidence existed he was a threat to others

So, a priori there was little that the University could do other than repeal its own ordinances against students carrying guns for self-protection

On the other hand, under current rules persons can only be confined if they suffer a mental illness or personality disorder which is treatable since it is for treatment that they are confined. Should the disorder be beyond the capacity of doctors to treat ie BPD, ASPD etc, then they cannot be confined against their will even though their behaviour could pose a threat to the welfare of others.

This issue is far from simple

22 April 2007 at 13:04  
Anonymous mens sana said...

The issue may be far from simple but it is one of fundamental human rights. In England this is the right of any of us to serve a writ of habeas corpus, which Churchill memorably dexribed in discussing the importance of magna carta

“here is a law which is above the King and which even he must not break. This reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is the great work of Magna Carta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it."

This law, which applies to all who have not been convicted or charged with a criminal offence, is above the government, above even Tony Blair, and we dispense with it at our peril

22 April 2007 at 15:05  
Anonymous Voyager said...

This law, which applies to all who have not been convicted or charged with a criminal offence, is above the government, above even Tony Blair, and we dispense with it at our peril

So how did Churchill reconcile this view with Rule 18B Emergency Powers Act (1939) suspending Habeas Corpus ?

It was non-operational during Long Kesh.

It is worth noting that Habeas Corpus is ineffectual against an Act of Parliament where the person detained is detained in accordance with the Statute.

The argument thus advanced is a non-argument and should be revised mens sana

22 April 2007 at 16:15  
Anonymous mens sana said...

It is not a non-argument. Habeas Corpus is one of our (only) fundamental rights and we suspend it at our peril. I would stand by every word of that. Of course it can be over-ridden by statute-that is exactly what we are discussing. But the principle is, or should be, paramount

I think that we would all agree that a world war is a reasonably serious occurrence which demanded particular measures for the safety of the nation. The same argument was made over internment in Northern Ireland, but I think that history shows that to have been a great mistake, which rather reinforces my point

22 April 2007 at 20:26  
Anonymous Colin said...

Politicians are causing mental illness: Writing in Public Servant magazine, psychiatrist Professor Cantopher called on politicians on all sides to "get out of our public services, stop making us ill". Dr. Cantopher explained, "Politicians need to be needed and for us to believe that they can stop things going wrong.

"They can't, of course, but they have to be seen to be doing something or their opposite numbers will call them complacent."
He said the big change in the past 20 years had been the growth of a bureaucratic "blame culture", which had been fostered by politicians. When mistakes are made by public servants there is routinely an inquiry, followed by the identification of a scapegoat and then a new "ream" of regulations, which ends up destroying the service itself, Dr Cantopher argues. ".. we now have an environment that stops people doing their jobs, leading to a downward spiral of mediocrity and disillusionment," he told the magazine.

"I'm fed up with this. I've seen too many of our best people sacrificed at the altar of our leaders' egos," he added. "So please, politicians, get out of our public services, stop making us ill and let us get on with the jobs we've mostly been doing well until you came along."

In conclusion, since the greater good lies in the protection of society, the 'lock-them-up-legislation’ will have to be applied to politicians.

22 April 2007 at 21:43  
Anonymous Colin said...

A completely different matter is the alleged mental health risk of cellular phones and wireless networks. His Grace's claim of a mental health timebomb is based on the newspaper article "Danger on the airwaves: Is the Wi-Fi revolution a health time bomb?" I wondered whether this is not another selection bias of the media and searched for reviews and the original literature.

His Grace reported that a recent authoritative Swedish study has also found that the radiation kills off brain cells". That’s a study by Prof Leif Salford of Lund University published 2003 in a relatively obscure journal. Here the original article. Another study published in a better journal also found some evidence for brain damage. However, others were unable to confirm these findings, e.g. here and here. The majority of studies published in renowed scientific journals didn't find anything. Here the conclusion of a research report published last year in the British Medical Journal:

"There is generally a lack of convincing and consistent evidence of any effect of exposure to radiofrequency field on risk of cancer. Overall our findings are consistent with this and with most studies on mobile phone use. The positive association found between risk of glioma and ipsilateral mobile phone use was accompanied by a negative association for the opposite side of use to the tumour. Although it is possible the ipsilateral association represents a real effect, this finding is probably explained by recall bias, with patients with glioma systematically over-reporting use on the same side as their tumour and consequently under-reporting use on the opposite side. This study suggests that there are no substantially raised risks of glioma in the 10 years after first mobile phone use. Only future studies will be able to address longer latency periods for the development of glioma."

22 April 2007 at 21:53  
Blogger C4' said...

An excellent piece Your Grace that is in accordance with my own forthcoming article on how Britain is being turned into a prison ala the film Johnny English

Senile at forty? What will the Government do? Lock them all up?

Not quite, as the government wants to tag senior citizens "or their own" protection. The next step will be to have the state-scantioned murder of anyone of the age of 30; such is the salami slice strategy of Blair and his fellow Nulabs.

23 April 2007 at 09:51  
Anonymous Observer said...

Senile at forty? What will the Government do? Lock them all up?

23 April 2007 at 11:43  

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