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Unconstitutional Mental Health Act must be reformed immediately - Pat Buckley TD

10 May, 2018 - by Pat Buckley TD

Sinn Féin Mental Health spokesperson Pat Buckley TD has called on the government to act immediately to resolve the legislative issues arising from a Supreme Court ruling on an unconstitutional section of the Mental Health Act 2001.

The section which allows for an extension of detention of an involuntary patient by 12 months was deemed unconstitutional this week.

Deputy Buckley said;

"The recent ruling in the case of AB v Clinical Director of St. Loman’s Hospital, underlines the drastic need for a serious focus on improving legislation dealing with the rights of patients in the mental health services.

"Right now, as I have highlighted before, involuntary patients are being treated as second class citizens with vastly diminished rights based on very limited justification.

"The ruling of the court is not just that this is wrong but it is actually unconstitutional and a serious breach of duty by the state to protect the rights of citizens, especially those most vulnerable who are in need of care.

"The ruling found part of the Mental Health Act to be unconstitutional.

"The current legislative framework allows involuntary patients to have their detention extended for up to 12 months without an effective or independent review within a reasonable time frame.

"Mental Health Reform’s Shari McDaid said this highlighted the urgent need for reform of the Mental Health Act.

"The act which is now 17 years old is out of date and has only been altered slightly in this time and many of the recommendations of the expert review and those of Mental Health Reform in response to the expert reviews findings have been ignored.

"This very issue was raised by the Expert Review 3 years ago, yet nothing has been done.

"It has taken the efforts of a citizen seeking justice through the highest court in the land to bring it to the point where it can no longer be ignored by government.

"The government now must act immediately to put in place legislation to fix this problem and ensure that care continues to be provide where necessary for the 95 inpatients potentially effected by this ruling.

"The 6 months grace provided by the courts should not be seen as time to dither.

"This ruling has rightfully made a mockery of the governments stunt of ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities without having the appropriate rights based legislation in place to back it up.

"They have had plenty of time to do it and plenty of expert instruction in how to do it.

"The solution is fairly simple, 12 months is far too long a time to extend detention of a patient without review, it must be reduced.

"A Bill to fix this must be brought before the house as soon as possible and passed before the summer recess. I ask that all parties work together to see this happen.
"Excuses can allows be found for failures in the service but failures in the legislation our undeniably our responsibility as legislators."

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