Calls for legal challenge to controversial Mental Health Bill mount

Calls for legal challenge to controversial Mental Health Bill mount

Calls for a judicial review of the troubled Mental Health Bill have come from practitioners and community leaders on news that this Bill is now due to go for Royal Assent, without any of their concerns over the widespread discrimination within the services being included in the changes to the law.

In a letter to the Department of Health from the Government’s race watchdog, the CRE (Commission for Racial Equality), serious concerns were raised over adverse impact proposed changes within the Mental Health Bill would have on ethnic minorities, as well as their failings in carrying out a Race Equality Impact Assessment of the Bill.

Human rights groups say that this information should have been made known to Lords and MPs before the Bill made its passage through parliament.
‘Had we known of the CRE’s letter earlier this would have effected our deliberations or indeed those in the other place (House of Commons)’ Lord Kamlesh Patel stated during the debate over the Bill in the House of Lords last week. He told the Lords that eminent health professionals and service users would be actively campaigning for a judicial review of the Bill: and condemned attempts to discredit the whole concept of institutional racism within the services in light the ‘significant and worrying disproportion and differing treatment of black patients’.
‘The experts in this area are saying that the Bill will lead to increased rates of detention but this has not been taken into account in the House or Lords or House of Commons. I would hope that the Commission for Racial Equality will follow this up, if possible with a judicial review. It is a ridiculous situation for the Government to set up a steering group to ensure that a full race equality assessment of the Bill is conducted and then to disregard the recommendations and advice of the group’ academic and mental health experts professor Kwame McKenzie said.
‘This issue of the REIA is an issue we really should look into as it an area of law that has not been challenged, but if the initial Bill did not have a proper REIA than it could mean that the whole Bill is not valid,’ professor Suman Fernando said.
‘The Government have a way of rushing through Bills that are contentious, which is what we have seen here. This is very unfair not only for stakeholders from our communities whose views have effectively been sidelined. I welcome the commitment to keep on fighting for legislative change that will address the proposals like forced treatment in the community, that if go unchallenged will have a damaging impact on our community .’ Pastor Ade Omooba of Coherent and Cohesive Coherent Voice said.
‘The findings of the Bennett Inquiry report coupled with plans for forced treatment in the community in this Bill mean that we have to keep fighting for equality of treatment . The news that the Bill being passed for Royal Assent comes as a huge disappointment, but knowing how people from our community are treated by the services we cannot afford to give up our fight for justice within these services. I welcome the call for a judicial review.” Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said.

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