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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 Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour 5:00 pm, 8th September 1999

I will endeavour to be brief, as a number of the points that have been raised have been debated fully. For Mr McLetchie's benefit, I will try to respond without a safety metaphor. [Laughter.] I want to return to the purpose of what we are doing. A number of members-and they are right-have said that we must focus on our narrow purpose, which is to close the loophole. The question then was why we need to make this clarification-for that is what we believe it is-in the definition of mental disorder.

We must be open: this is a belt and braces measure. We believe that personality disorder is included in mental disorder, and has been for many years. We want to make that absolutely clear so that there is no possibility of opening up a slightly different loophole. We do not intend to widen the definition of personality disorder.

All these amendments seek to qualify the reference to personality disorder and, in different ways, to limit its scope. We have studied them very carefully and I am grateful-particularly to Mr Matheson, Mr McLetchie and Mr Canavan-for setting out so clearly the reasoning behind their amendments. We have listened to them very carefully. We have also listened to the concerns of the mental health community. I reiterate, however, that this is a topic on which psychiatrists hold very different views, as do the various bodies in the mental health community.

Several members have mentioned the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, the important views of which have been considered. Reference has also been made to the Scottish Association for Mental Health, which thinks that the clarification that we have made is useful, correct and does not broaden the definition of mental disorder at all.

Amendment 28 seeks to reduce the scope of the definition by including the words:

"including a persistent personality disorder manifested principally by abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct".

It is our belief that the amendment is not necessary. The tests from section 17 will apply. The reaction of the chamber to Mrs Ullrich's suggestion that those who have obsessive handwashing syndrome would be brought into the ambit of the act showed how far behind the terms of the debate that kind of suggestion is.