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Mental Health Units (Use of Force) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:17 am on 6th July 2018.

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Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp Conservative, Croydon South 10:17 am, 6th July 2018

I thank the Minister for her helpful intervention. Of course, I entirely sympathise with the point that Parliament should not impose unduly onerous requirements on already very busy and possibly, in some cases, overstretched mental health units, but I am concerned to make sure that we have not left a little loophole that might, perhaps inadvertently, end up being exploited so that training is not being given the degree of regularity that perhaps the House intends.

My final point of detail is on clause 6(10), which specifies the “relevant characteristics” of a patient. My hon. Friend Philip Davies questioned whether we need to record these “relevant characteristics”, which are listed in quite some detail. If we are going to do so, and any inference is to be drawn from those characteristics in future, it is important to measure them against the same characteristics for the whole population treated in any particular mental health unit. If we are going to say, for example, that X% of people who have been subject to this procedure have a particular gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity, then before drawing any inference from that, it is important to compare that statistic with the proportion of people in the unit with the same characteristic. One needs to use those statistics with a certain amount of careful thought to make sure that inappropriate or inaccurate inferences do not end up being drawn.

I am, like my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, a great supporter of the use of police body-worn cameras, which are a great innovation. They have been responsible for a huge reduction in the number of complaints against police officers, because the officer is aware that the camera is being worn and recording—that, I am sure, has some moderating influence—and the person the officer is dealing with is aware of the same thing. I am sure that that has also reduced the number of vexatious complaints against the police. It is a very welcome move.

I was not present for the lengthy debate that my hon. Friend mentioned about whether a failure to wear a body-worn camera might be considered unlawful in the light of clause 12. Personally, I draw comfort from subsection (4), which appears to say expressly that there is not criminal liability. However, I will certainly follow his advice and refer to the report of the previous proceedings on that point. In general, the use of body-worn cameras when the police are dealing with mental health cases is extremely welcome and will, I am sure, assist with the problems that have existed in this regard.

I reiterate my very warm congratulations to my constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Croydon North, for his tireless work in this area. I am sure that not just the London Borough of Croydon but the whole House and the whole country are grateful for his work.