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Section 3 — Meaning of "mental Disorder" in the 1984 Act

Part of Mental Health (Public Safety and Appeals) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:45 pm on 8th September 1999.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 4:45 pm, 8th September 1999

The aim of amendment 30 is very similar to the aims of the amendments supported by Michael Matheson and David McLetchie. In view of their remarks-most of which I support-I shall keep my comments to a minimum.

Section 3(1) will insert the phrase "(including personality disorder)" into the 1984 act. I think that it would be in the general interest if the words "personality disorder" were more focused. A considerable proportion of the people of Scotland suffer from personality disorders, but I hope that they will never come within the scope of this bill, and I hope that it is not the Executive's intention that they should ever do so. So why on earth should they be included by the use of such a wide phrase as "personality disorder"? That is what is proposed in the wording of the bill as it stands.

Last week, I lodged some parliamentary questions about the issue-I do not know whether the minister knows about that, but I hope that I will get a reply in due course. I did not really expect to get a reply before today's debate, but perhaps the minister will give some indication of the official estimate of the number of people in Scotland who suffer from a personality disorder. How many people in Carstairs state hospital or other state hospitals suffer from personality disorders? How many of those people have personality disorders that can be classified as presenting some danger to the public?

As Bruce Millan said in his letter to the Deputy First Minister, it is very important that we do not imagine, or put across to the general public, that people who suffer from mental illness are all going to pose some threat to the general public, because that is untrue. Unlike Dr Simpson, I am not a psychiatrist, but I imagine that the overwhelming majority of people with personality disorders do not present any threat to the general public at all. I do not see why they should be included within the scope of this bill.

From my reading in preparation for this debate, I understand that some people use the term "psychopath" similarly, if not synonymously, to the way in which they use the phrase "someone with an anti-social personality disorder". Is that correct? Is that an accurate definition in the eyes of psychiatrists, the law or both? I would welcome an explanation from the minister.

As members can see, I have proposed that, instead of the phrase "(including personality disorder)", we should have "(including dangerous anti-social personality disorder)". As Michael Matheson said, that would help to focus this emergency legislation on the small minority of people on whom it is meant to be focused.