January 15, 2010

Government to amend mental health legislation
10 January 2010 By Kieron Wood

The government is to push through legislation in the spring to allow the recall of patients conditionally discharged from the Central Mental Hospital.

The Criminal Law (Insanity) (Amendment) Bill is being drafted at the request of the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board, which reviews the detention of every patient in Dundrum every six months.

In its annual report, the board said it carried out 150 individual reviews in 2008, and made one order for unconditional discharge to sheltered accommodation.

But it made no orders for conditional discharges because, while the board has the power to make a conditional order, it was advised that any conditions which it might impose would not be enforceable.

The board would, therefore, have no power to recall a patient who breached his conditions of discharge.

‘‘The board is concerned that the prolonging of deprivation of liberty by reason of the lack of enforceability could become an issue in the absence of powers to discharge with enforceable conditions," said the report.

Most of the patients detained at the CMH – including those found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, or unfit to plead – are not suitable for discharge, but a number of patients could be discharged if the board could impose enforceable conditions, such as remaining drug-free or attending the hospital for therapeutic activities.

‘‘The board is of the view that the continuing detention of these patients is contrary to the original intention of the 2006 Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, and hopes that legislation can be enacted in the near future to remedy the unfortunate situation which has arisen," said the report.

The chairman of the board is Mr Justice Brian McCracken.

Its two other members are consultant psychiatrist Dr Michael Mulcahy and Tim Dalton, former Secretary-General of the Department of Justice.

The total costs of the board in 2008 amounted to €692,000. Whitney Moore Solicitors provided legal services.

About 80 patients are detained in the Central Mental Hospital at any one time.