Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 16 Dec 2010

Vol. 206 No. 9

Criminal Law (Insanity) Bill 2010 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages

I welcome the Minister of State. This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 113, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration," the Minister of State may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of the amendments. The Minister of State will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed groupings to the House. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matters that may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

I understand group 1 comprises amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, and 7.

For many obvious reasons, I thank Members of both Houses for their interest in ensuring the Bill's swift passage.

Sections 7 and 8 of the Bill amend the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 to provide that enforceable conditions can be included in the order of the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board for the conditional discharge of a person detained in a designated centre under the 2006 Act. The Central Mental Hospital is the only designated centre under the Act. The new section 13B to be inserted in the 2006 Act by section 8 of the Bill provides for the return of a person to the Central Mental Hospital where he or she is in material breach of a conditional discharge order. It provides that, where a person is in material breach of a conditional discharge order, the clinical director of the designated centre must make arrangements to effect the person's return to the centre, including, where necessary, with the assistance of the Garda Síochána. The purpose of the amendments is to clarify the Garda's power of arrest under section 13B. This matter was raised during the debate by Senator Bacik, to whom I will respond. The amendments will ensure persons arrested under the section can be transferred by the Garda into the custody of the staff of the designated centre.

The main amendment in the group is amendment No. 1; the other amendments are technical drafting amendments. It is proposed that, under subsection (6), a garda may arrest without warrant a person whom he or she, with reasonable cause, suspects is unlawfully at large under section 13B. The new subsection (7) provides that the person must be transferred into the custody of an officer or a servant of the designated centre or an authorised person for the purposes of effecting the return of the person to the centre.

The amendments do not materially change the provision, but, on reflection and after listening to the debate in the Houses, it was deemed necessary to ensure section 13B clearly set out what should happen to a person arrested under the section.

I welcome the amendment and the fact that it provides clarity. On Committee stage we had a full debate on this matter and the procedure to be given effect under this provision. I am glad the Minister of State took our discussions on board in drafting the amendment.

I was glad the issue was raised. I am also glad that clarity has been brought to it. I am equally satisfied that the Seanad has accepted the clarifications.

Group 2 deals with the subject matter of amendments Nos. 5 and 6.

I thank Senators and Members of the Lower House for ensuring the Bill's passage will be quick. Some issues needed clarification to ensure the Bill would have the best outcome. I welcome the advice given to me on the various Stages.

The purpose of these amendments to section 8 is to clarify that the safeguards provided under the new section 13B will apply to a person in material breach of a conditional discharge order who voluntarily returns to the designated centre just as much as they are to apply to a person who is returned involuntarily. The safeguards ensure a person who returns or is returned will be brought before the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board as soon as possible after his or her return to have his or her detention reviewed. They also ensure the person will be subject to all of the provisions of the 2006 Act just as if he or she was being detained under the Act for the first time.

Group 3 deals with an amendment to the Title, the subject matter of amendment No. 8.

The amendment to section 11 changes the reference in the section from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform in accordance with the recently announced changes in ministerial responsibilities.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

We welcome the passage of the Bill, in particular the provision that conditional discharge orders may be made. We thank the Minister of State for taking the time to deal with the issues raised. I am glad that section 3 was amended on Committee Stage in the Seanad in recognition of the point made that people should be capable of being detained in places other than the Central Mental Hospital. This was an important Government amendment on foot of amendments tabled by the Labour Party. I am sorry, however, that the District Court retains the power to detain. We had a full debate on the matter and the expert advice received by the Labour Party was that the District Court should not retain this power.

The Minister of State is sympathetic on the most significant issue, namely, that we should not use the outdated word "insanity" in any 2010 or 2011 legislation dealing with persons with a psychiatric illness. Both he and the Minister for Justice and Law Reform stated they would keep the matter under review and that the word would be changed in a larger Bill. Given the short term the Government has left, it is disappointing that it has not been changed in this Bill. The Labour Party's amendment to substitute the term "mental disorder" for "insanity" might have helped. Having said this, I thank the Minister of State and his officials for their work. I welcome the Bill.

I thank the Minister of State for his attendance. This is an important Bill. It is notable that some Opposition amendments were accepted by the Government, which is not always the case. They have clearly been vetted. I welcome the passage of the Bill.

I join my colleagues in welcoming the Minister of State back to the House. I congratulate everyone who spoke on this legislation. Although there were some reservations expressed, the issues were teased out in the Seanad and the Bill will improve the law in this area.

I agree with Senator Bacik that use of the word "insanity" is inappropriate, but creating new terminology will be difficult. The Minister of State is well aware that use of the word "insanity" leaves a stigma.

I thank all those involved in the Bill's passage. I thank the Minister of State and his staff and my Opposition colleagues for a very fair hearing and a worthwhile debate on this issue.

I thank the Senators and I will respond to some of the points made. I accept completely that in 2010, using the word, "insanity" gives the wrong impression. I also acknowledge the point made by Deputy Shatter on Committee Stage when he reminded us that it has taken us 15 years to get to this point and I accept we could have done more.

On a positive note, the major review of the Act begins now; therefore, whoever will be in government will have that facility open to them to make all these necessary changes which I acknowledge should have been implemented sooner. The legal advice we received warned of legal implications which could not be dealt with at this time. I do not use this as an excuse because it contradicts all we are doing in an effort to effect a sea-change and in the national campaign to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health. The nationwide campaign aims to remove the stigma and the connotations associated with the word "insanity". This issue will be dealt with in detail in the review.

It was very clear to me that all sides of the House and all those who participated in the debate in both Houses wanted this legislation put through as quickly as possible for all the obvious good reasons, such as to give people conditional discharges which is one of the most important aspects of the Bill. It became very clear to us the genuine commitment of people to ensure that centres other than the Central Mental Hospital should be designated and I accept the amendments in that regard. This will all help to reduce the stigma as individuals were referred to the Central Mental Hospital when they could have been referred to other areas if this legislation had been brought forward some years ago. There may have been better outcomes for individual lives if they were not required to attend the Central Mental Hospital in the first instance.

I appreciate the points made by Senator Bacik with regard to the District Court and that the higher courts could have allowed for referrals to different centres. With regard to the need for extra security I was not prepared to take that proposal for fear it might be the wrong direction to take. The major review begins immediately.

I thank Members. I thank in particular two officials from my Department, Ms Valerie Fallon and Ms Tracy O'Keeffe, who regularly explained the most intricate details to me in very ordinary language which is much appreciated.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 11.45 a.m. and resumed at 11.55 a.m.