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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 5:00 pm on 8th September 1999.

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Photo of Duncan Hamilton Duncan Hamilton Scottish National Party 5:00 pm, 8th September 1999

I will be brief-that is a compliment to those who have gone before me.

I share Mr McLetchie's concerns about the speed with which the legislation is being dealt with. I think that everyone has a great deal of sympathy with the fact that it has to be rushed through, but that excuse cannot be used to justify a slap-dash approach, which is evident in this wide definition.

One of the things that has been forgotten is that in the Parliament's infancy members decided that it would listen a lot more to expert evidence and that it would be a fully inclusive Parliament. If that is so, and we have agreement across the board-including that of the Law Society of Scotland, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and, from its own publications, the Government-on the differentiation between personality disorder and mental illness, it seems odd that we are deliberately turning away from that. If we are turning away from that, I need more of an explanation of why it is an advantageous move. It is not good enough to say, "We want to focus on today and that is the only reason why we are turning away from it."

If the Government wants to focus, it needs to really focus and to get down to the nuts and bolts of the people it is trying to affect. That is why amendment 28 was lodged. It tries to specify the group of people who are targeted by the amendment and, in that way, tries to protect the rights of others.

I listened to what Mr Jackson said with some interest; he made some excellent points. I noted his reservations about the Government's position against the background of his long and distinguished legal career.

We are left with one of two positions. Either we can get it wrong and choose the wide and unfocused definition that is before us, in the interest of a catch-all, or we can opt for a more thoughtful and focused definition in the short term and look forward to the committees dealing with the issue in the longer term.

As Mr MacAskill said, this is an interim measure. That is the point, so let us make it absolutely focused. If that is the driving force behind the Government, I cannot see its logic in refusing to accept the amendment. We are trying to close loopholes-the Parliament and the Government owe it to the public to ensure that those loopholes are shut-and we must do it together and cleverly. The bill does not meet those criteria. What is the advantage in being deliberately out of date? I cannot see how that moves the process forward one iota. I should have thought that current legislation required current thinking.