Mental Health Bill stalls yet again in the Lords

Thursday 22 February 2007 at 9:40 pm | In News | Post Comment
Josie Russell survived Michael Stone's attack
Josie Russell survived Michael Stone's attack
Plans to lock up more mental patients are in turmoil after a Government bill was mauled in the House of Lords this week.

A murder is committed every week by mental patients released into the community, so for 8 years there has been a campaign to reform the law relating to mental health.

The current law does not permit the detention of those with severe personality disorders unless they have previously committed a crime. A bill to change mental health law was roundly defeated as peers feared the proposed law would have allowed the detention of those who drink too heavily, take drugs, or have sexual identity or orientation problems � so long as they are thought to represent a risk to the public.

The Lords also proposed an amendment to the Bill that would have meant no one could be locked away, whatever their risk to the public, unless there was a substantial chance that treatment would alleviate or prevent deterioration in their condition.

Criticism of the law became focused following the conviction in 1998 of Michael Stone for the murders of Lin and Megan Russell. Stone killed shortly after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital.

Drug rape myth. Binge drinking is to blame

Saturday 17 February 2007 at 5:00 pm | In News | Post Comment

Women who claim to be victims of ‘date-rape’ drugs such as Rohypnol have in fact been rendered helpless by

Drunken girl
Drunken girl
binge-drinking, says a study at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

This follows a comment last month by Julie Bentley, chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust who said “As far as I am aware, there has never been a case of Rohypnol in this country found.”

Newspaper report here.

Which areas of law need to be reformed?

Saturday 10 February 2007 at 5:42 pm | In News | Post Comment

The Law Commission has opened a Forum to invite contributors to post suggestions about areas of law that need reforming. It has been going less than a week and I suspect the contributions are not what the commissioners expected.

Law Commission forum is here.

Full veil not to be worn in court

Saturday 10 February 2007 at 5:12 pm | In News | Post Comment

Veiled womanNew guidelines make it clear that the preference is for full veils (niqab) not to be worn in court.
In each case, the final decision is left to judges and magistrates who can permit a veil if it does not jeopardise the “interests of justice”, so veils are not banned outright.

The Judicial Studies Board guidance applies to everyone participating in court proceedings including the judge. A witness not being able to hear properly would be a reasonable objection that would lead to the judge to ask for a veil not to be worn.

The guidance became necessary when Shabnam Mughal dressed completely in black with the full-face veil leaving only her eyes visible attempted to present a case but the judge stopped her because he could not hear her “as well as I would like”.  

The guidance has the backing of the Lord Chief Justice. 

Corporate manslaughter bill defeated, again

Thursday 8 February 2007 at 9:35 am | In News | Post Comment

Major figures including Lady Thatcher, Lord Howe and the former lord chancellors Lord Mackay and Lord Irvine turned up in the House of Lords this week to vote against the government’s corporate manslaughter bill. The defeat centred on including deaths in police and in prisons, which the Home Secretary John Reid had excluded from the bill. It looks increasing likely that the passage of the bill has halted and yet again, it will fail to make it to the statute book.

New legislation to protect emergecy workers…

Saturday 3 February 2007 at 5:10 pm | In News | Post Comment

Fire EngineThe Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act 2006 contains two new offences.
1. To obstruct or hinder certain emergency workers who are responding to emergency circumstances.
2. To hinder or obstruct those who are assisting emergency workers responding to emergency circumstances.

This will cover obstructing those who, for example, are fetching equipment or directing traffic during an incident to assist the emergency workers. Emergency workers are defined as firefighters, ambulance workers and those transporting blood, organs or equipment on behalf of the NHS, coastguards and lifeboat crews. The police already have their own obstruction offence as do prison officers.

These offences protect personnel who respond to ‘blue-light’ situations, against such activity as parking where an emergency vehicle cannot get by and refusing to move, or damaging an emergency vehicle or equipment, and giving false information at the scene of an emergency, which would delay or mislead emergency workers. But it would not cover deliberate hoax calls, which are dealt with in other legislation. 

The prison debate…

Friday 2 February 2007 at 9:20 pm | In News | Post Comment

If we imprisoned offenders at the average rate (per 1,000 crimes) of EU members, the prison population would be 113,150 instead of 80,000.

Eight out of the fifteen members of the EU for which figures are available imprisoned offenders at a higher rate than England and Wales. The calculations are based on figures for 2003 (the latest available from the Council of Europe).

With a prison population in England and Wales of 80,000, if we imprisoned at the same rate as France, the prison population would be 91,113. If custody were used at the same rate as in Scotland, there would be 88,142 in jail.

Socialist Spain has the highest rate per 1,000 crimes and if her rate applied in England and Wales the prison population would be about 369,000.

Civitas report here

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