Examination of Witnesses (Questions 198
MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2004
Q198 Chairman: Minister, welcome.
You know that the Joint Committee on Human Rights is currently
inquiring into deaths in custody. We heard earlier on today from
witnesses from Mind and the Mental Health Act Commission. As a
result of the evidence we have had so far, we have heard from
several witnesses that the use of control and restraint are not
being adequately implemented and I wonder whether you think that,
in practice, control and restraint powers are being exercised
in a way which protect Conventional rights of patients.
Dr Ladyman: I certainly think
that the guidance published in Chapter 19 of the guidance in relation
to the Mental Health Act certainly complies with the Convention
rights. I have not heard anybody who questions that the guidance
is in line and complies with those rights and, if there has been
evidence presented to you that they do fail to comply with those
rights, I would be interested to see it. I suppose the question
is whether people are adequately following that guidance and,
by and large, I think they are. I have no reason to believe that
there is widespread failure to follow the guidance adequately.
Are there occasionally examples where people are not following
the guidance either through lack of knowledge, misjudgment or
in a crisis situation? Yes, I am sure there are but I think those
are the exceptions. I hope that the processes that are in place
to require and audit the use of restraints and an investigation
following any use, and the documentation of course and then audit
and then follow-up by management, do pick up pretty much all the
cases where the guidance is not properly followed. So, I am broadly
content but of course you can always do better and I do not think
we should ever lose sight of that.
Q199 Chairman: It has been suggested
to us that the guidelines should be given statutory importance;
have you considered whether they should be included in the Draft
Mental Health Bill?
Dr Ladyman: We have considered
it and, at this time, we are not minded to do so. We believe that
there will be new guidance with the new Mental Health Act, so
we will take that opportunity to revise the guidance. At this
time, we are not minded to include it in statutory force; we would
prefer to leave it as guidance in the future as it is now. Of
course, our minds are not finally made up yet; we are still in
a consultation process on the forthcoming Bill, so the evidence
of this Committee will be influential in helping us decide what
finally to do.