Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 198 - 199)



  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.

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