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Society says government proposals pose risk to human rights of mental health patients

22 August 2014

Patients with mental health issues are at risk of having their human rights curtailed under new government proposals, the Law Society of Scotland has warned.

May Dunsmuir, joint convener of the Society’s mental health and disability committee said: “While we of course welcome the Scottish Government’s aim of improving and clarifying the 2003 Act, we do have some concerns, in particular, that many of the Bill’s provisions are based on the recommendations of the McManus Committee who conducted a limited review of the Act and reported back in 2009, and that they no longer reflect current needs or practice.

“We have a particular concern that the Bill does not provide patients detained in a low security hospital the right to appeal against conditions of excessive security, it only extends those rights already held by those in high level security hospitals to those in a medium security facility.

"This is restrictive and discriminatory and has implications under human rights law, in particular a person’s right to liberty, a private and family life, freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment and non-discrimination.”

Ms Dunsmuir also highlighted the extension of the short term detention period while awaiting the outcome of an application for a compulsory treatment order from 5 to 10 working days.

“It is our view that this extension of time is no longer necessary and is a further encroachment on the patient’s rights. In particular it affords less legal and procedural safeguards for the patient in terms of their rights to liberty and to a fair trial under the European Convention of Human Rights.”