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Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill - Sinn Féin welcomes Ministers agreement to remove prisons from legislation

23 March, 2006

Speaking after the report stage of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD said he was delighted that Minister McDowell agreed to accept Sinn Fein's amendment removing the possibility of a prison or part of a prison being made a 'designated centre' for the purposes of the Act.

Pushing his amendment during the debate Deputy Ó Snodaigh argued that, "People suffering from mental illness must not be held in prisons. A judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter is unequivocal in requiring that, where a person is detained for mental illness, he or she must be held in a clinic and not in a prison where appropriate therapy and treatment are not available." Deputy Ó Snodaigh went on to point out that, "The UN Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care also clearly prohibits the use of prisons or parts thereof. The spirit of this clearly implies that the location of people suffering mental illness on the site of a prison is also inappropriate. All references to prisons in the provisions for the designation of centres must be removed from the Bill, in line with the Human Rights Commission and National Disability Authority's recommendations".

The Dublin South Central TD also welcomed the government's amendments allowing the Judiciary the possibility of directing that care and treatment be delivered in an out-patient setting where appropriate. He said the amendments that the Minister introduced today followed directly from the concerns raised by Sinn Fein during Committee stage of the Bill in January.

"At committee stage and again today I raised the concerns of sectoral groups with the Minister. The Bill as proposed by the Minister made provisions for committal to a designated centre only. However, the Mental Health Commission, Schizophrenia Ireland and the Human Rights Commission all submitted that the proposed Bill went against the central philosophy of modern mental health treatment and that a wider range of options should be open to the judiciary. This would ensure that the most appropriate intervention is offered to each person. On behalf of Sinn Fein, I tabled amendments to give effect to the groups' recommendations. The Minister's resulting amendments go some way toward alleviating our concerns.

"I am delighted that this legislation, which represents a concerted effort to reform this previously neglected area of law which dates from the 19th Century, is now finally coming into being. It's up to the government now to ensure that it is fully resourced." ENDS

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