Labour’s ‘inhumane’ Mental Health Bill
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.