Public health psychiatry and crime preventionBMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7194.1354b (Published 15 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1354
Preventive detention of mentally ill people is already widespread
- John J Sandford, Specialist registrar in forensic psychiatry
- Forensic Psychiatry Service, Butler Clinic, Landon Hospital, Dawlish, Devon EX7 0NR
- Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, London NW5 3EJ
EDITOR—Eastman's editorial brought the debate about dangerousness and mental disorder to a wider audience.1 Unfortunately, he failed to point out that the preventive detention of those with untreatable mental disorders is already widely practised in England. Under the Mental Health Act (1983) people with mental illness or severe mental impairment can be detained indefinitely in hospital regardless of response to treatment and on grounds of risk to self as well as others. Secure and open psychiatric hospitals are full of such patients.
If Eastman was concerned that possible new legislation might challenge both the “civil liberties of the unconvicted and those designated untreatable” then surely this concern should extend to the current legislation affecting people with a mental illness or mental impairment. Many psychiatrists find it convenient to …