Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Questions (357)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

357. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health his plans to adopt the United Kingdom system in which a person having a psychotic or psychiatric episode must be assessed in a hospital before being detained in police custody; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16215/19]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Almost 90% of admissions to psychiatric hospitals or units are on a voluntary basis where the person consents to admission and treatment.

The Mental Health Commission in their 2017 Annual Report confirm that there were 1,770 involuntary admissions from the community to psychiatric hospitals and units that year.  In a quarter of those admissions, the application for admission was made by a member of the Gardaí. 

It is important to point out that the Mental Health Act 2001 sets out the formal procedures that must be followed in all circumstances where an involuntary admission can take place.

The three-step process for such admissions from the community requires an initial application by a person for a recommendation to have an individual involuntarily admitted.  Such applications can be made by a family member, an Authorised Officer of the HSE, a Garda or any other person.  To make the application, there must be concerns about the mental health and welfare of the individual.

The second step is for the individual to be examined by a Registered Medical Practitioner. In the event that he or she is satisfied that the individual is suffering from a mental disorder as defined in section 3 of the 2001 Act, he or she will make a recommendation that the individual be involuntarily admitted.

The third step requires the Consultant Psychiatrist on duty in the psychiatric hospital or unit to then examine the individual. If the Consultant Psychiatrist is satisfied that the individual is suffering from a mental disorder as defined in section 3 of the 2001 Act, then he or she will make an order admitting the individual.

Section 12 of the Mental Health Act 2001 authorises a member of the Gardaí who has reasonable grounds for believing that an individual is suffering from a mental disorder and that because of the mental disorder there is a serious likelihood of the individual causing immediate and serious harm to himself or herself or to other persons, to either take the individual into custody, or enter by force any dwelling or other premises or any place if he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that the individual is to be found there.  Where the individual is taken into custody, a member of the Gardaí then makes the application to a Registered Medical Practitioner for a recommendation.

An Expert Group Review of the Mental Health Act 2001 reported in 2015 and the draft heads of an amending bill based on the recommendations of the Expert Group will soon be sent to the Mental Health Commission for review.  The Expert Group did not recommend any significant change to the current provisions regarding the authority currently vested in the Gardaí under the 2001 Act to take individuals into custody with a view to having the individual assessed for admission to a psychiatric hospital or unit on an involuntary basis.

On that basis, I have no plans to amend legislation to remove the authority of Gardaí to take individuals into custody under the 2001 Act.