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Appeal Court finding reflects ‘urgent need’ for reform of mental health law

The ruling found part of the Mental Health Act to be unconstitutional because it allows an involuntary patient to have their detention extended for up to 12 months without an effective or independent review within a reasonable time frame.

Referring to yesterday’s Appeal Court ruling, Dr Shari McDaid, Director of Mental Health Reform, said: “The finding by Mr Justice Gerard Hogan that the long-stay detention of an individual in an inpatient unit without the opportunity for review is unconstitutional, clearly shows why we urgently need to reform the Mental Health Act, 2001 in full.”

Dr McDaid continued: “This legal case highlights just one of the many recommendations of the Expert Group review of the Mental Health Act that have not been actioned by Government. Over three years after publication of the Expert Group’s report we have yet to see the comprehensive legislation to improve the protection of individuals’ rights when in hospital for mental health treatment.

“Worryingly, if Government does not update our mental health legislation in full, the 78 individuals who are currently long-stay in hospital will end up discharged from regulated inpatient services to unregulated community based mental health services. This is because the recommendation of the Expert Group to regulate community based mental health services also has not been actioned by Government.”

Dr McDaid concluded: “It is essential that the Department of Health allocates the necessary resources to ensure full reform of the Mental Health Act, 2001 this year, in order to comply with the Irish constitution and Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Government needs to demonstrate the political will to drive this reform agenda forward so that people with mental health difficulties can have confidence that their rights will be protected when in hospital for mental health treatment.”

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