Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Mental Health (Renewal Orders) Bill 2018: Second and Subsequent Stages
I know that the Government is very anxious to expedite this emergency legislation. Senator Wilson has rightly said that this has cross-party support. Much work has been done and many parties have come together to make sure we get what is best for the patient. The Bill is a response to the finding by the Court of Appeal in June that section 15(3) of the Mental Health Act 2001 is unconstitutional. The section provides for the involuntary detention of patients for periods not exceeding six months and 12 months. The Court of Appeal's finding was on the basis that there is no effective means for a patient to seek an independent review of his or her detention within a reasonable time. In delivering its judgment, the Court of Appeal said that the finding on its constitutionality demands an immediate and imperative response on the part of the other branches of government, the Oireachtas and the Government. The Court of Appeal placed a stay on its judgment in June until 8 November to allow the Oireachtas and the Government to remedy the position and for operational change for existing patients to be put in place by the Mental Health Commission and the Health Service Executive, HSE. That is why we are here today to expedite this emergency legislation.
On 25 September, 124 people were retained under section 15(3) renewal orders, a number of whom are detained in the Central Mental Hospital. Once this emergency legislation is enacted all patients detained on that date under the section 15(3) renewal orders must be examined by their consultant psychiatrist who will issue a replacement renewal order if appropriate. A mental health tribunal must review the renewal order and give a decision to affirm or revoke the order. This is a very significant operational undertaking which needs approximately four weeks to complete, and it must be completed in full before the expiry of the Court of Appeal's stay on 8 November to ensure that all patients are lawfully detained on that date.
The Department of Health had a policy choice between providing for mandatory review at three monthly intervals by shortening the maximum duration of renewal orders to three months or making a new right to a review an optional one for the patient. Following the appropriate consultation the Department of Health has chosen to provide for a new right for the patient or his or her legal representative to request a review of the detention by a mental health tribunal, an approach considered to be more patient centred. The Bill removes a provision for a 12-month renewal order in its entirety and this had already been intended as part of a wider review of the mental health legislation as recommended by the expert group review of the Mental Health Act 2001. Given the urgency of the situation and the particularly vulnerable cohort of patients who are affected by this judgment, the Government is seeking the support of all parties and Independents which will be necessary to ensure the timely commencement of urgent legislation. I welcome that support today.
I am really encouraged by all this good work in the area of mental health reform and want to pay tribute to all parties who have worked extremely hard on this. All of us must continue to recognise that people suffering from mental health difficulties have the same entitlement to have their voices heard and respected as anybody else. It is necessary to do all we can to protect vulnerable people including those who need inpatient psychiatric care. Sometimes we can be accused of being adversarial but today we are putting the patient ahead of everybody and I hope this Bill will be passed.