Mental health patients being denied human rights in court

(211 Posts)
HollyHB Sat 04-Jan-14 02:15:09

From www.independent.co.uk/
Emily Dugan, Social Affairs Correspondent, published Friday 03 January 2014

Brief, fair use excerpt:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
People with mental health problems are being denied justice by some Court of Protection judges who fail to even consider hearing patients’ testimony, leading lawyers have told a House of Lords inquiry.
...
Charlotte Haworth Hird, a solicitor who contributed to the submission, said that depriving patients of the right to speak for themselves “can lead to injustice”. She added: “Just because someone is deemed not to have capacity doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the chance to speak to the judge about an important decision affecting their lives.
...
The decisions of the court came under scrutiny earlier ... when it emerged Italian mother Alessandra Pacchieri had a caesarean section performed against her wishes and that her daughter was later taken into "care". ...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It's good that they acknowledge that when people are denied opportunity to speak in their own defense when accused of being mental in an English Star Chamber secret court, it is not just the victim but her child or children who are denied justice also.

Spero Sat 04-Jan-14 19:43:27

Thank you for sharing LittleDoris, I think it is important to hear this.

I accept that there is always room for checking what we are doing, in any field.

There is an uneasy relationship between paternalism and protection and I accept that the right balance is not always achieved.

But I also believe people are trying to get it right.

The Court of Protection is not some 'Star Chamber' as others consistently assert (and I think they need to explain that term, I have only hazy recollection from History A Level, but I assume it is not something good)

Lioninthesun Sat 04-Jan-14 19:46:36

OP, are you American? Some of your spellings make me think so. Just considering that perhaps there are different 'rights' for someone suffering from a mental episode over there?

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 19:53:57

Are abuse and rape victims children of a lesser God or don't they fit correctly into any political agenda nowadays?

I am sorry, I might be being a bit obtuse, but what do you mean by that?

Lioninthesun Sat 04-Jan-14 19:58:32

LittleDoris when you say 'no matter how incapable they are deemed to be.' I wonder have you ever seen someone having a schizophrenic episode? That is what I find intriguing about these media reports - how few people seem to genuinely know what one looks like. If you did I doubt you would be searching for a pen and paper to make notes to show you 'listened'.
I think your case must have been rather different...(without a mental episode I assume).

LokiIsMine Sat 04-Jan-14 19:58:33

I am sorry, I might be being a bit obtuse, but what do you mean by that?

I guess the explanation would be that you're getting worried for 'one case' without taking notice of the hundreds of other cases where human rights are disregarded every day.

It is true. Unless a disadvantaged, vulnerable group of people doesn't fit into a political agenda of 'someone', ordinary people don't pay any attention to it.

HollyHB Sat 04-Jan-14 20:00:40

Spero writes: ... what do you suggest we do? Simply take every mentally ill person to court? What about the people who are just too ill? ...

I can't solve these problems, I am not a judge, lawmaker or a physician.

But I do know that whatever practice is implemented must be compatible with both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. And the present practice, as revealed in the subject case is grossly incompatible with each of those.

Medicine and security must not be used as excuses to deprive people of basic human rights. Even if physicians have an opinion, only an opinion mind you, that they are incompetents.

Either it must all end so that people cannot be accused in secret or prosecuted with secret evidence or denied the opportunity to speak in their own defense including confronting accusers -or- if government decides contrariwise then Britain should withdraw from the Council of Europe and withdraw from the United Nations Organisation because our nation's policies are incompatible with the aims of those.

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 20:02:53

But I also believe people are trying to get it right.

I agree. But my experiences have lead me to believe that SS/HCPs/lawyers, are all very keen to try to fit everyone into a box. One size fits all. And that worries me.

When reading the reports that my SW submitted to case conferences it was very clear that it was a copy and paste exercise.

I am an intelligent person, I am also very articulate in rl (not so much in writing) and I was able to come out the other side. Someone who is really very ill wouldn't be able to. There is a fine line between helping someone and doing what's right, and trying to squeeze them into the box you have assigned them to.

I am not saying that every patient should be taken to court, just that they should be given the option. If they are too ill to respond to that option then they won't be able to go.

Lioninthesun Sat 04-Jan-14 20:03:23

I think this is a rocky area to be honest. In a pregnant state the mother (who was over term if I remember rightly) is in danger herself as well as her baby. I think to keep both of them alive something had to be done as quickly as possible. In this case I can see how her having an episode would be seen as a life-threatning risk for her and her baby. The fact she would probably not be able to see that herself at that moment in time, would be a problem for both lives, if you were to have your way.

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 20:07:53

I wonder have you ever seen someone having a schizophrenic episode?

Well yes I have. I was held at knife point by a person having a schizophrenic (among other things) episode.

As for the comment about victims of abuse and rapes children, the victim of abuse and/or rape is just as important as their children, and them being a victim does not render them an incapable parent. So I am still failing to see the point there.

HollyHB Sat 04-Jan-14 20:17:03

Lionin the sun writes: OP, are you American?

I'm a dual citizen US/UK. I am from Merseyside and Cheshire but lived in California for a couple of decades to please him angry before the divorce. I'm an OAP back home now, West Yorkshire bus pass and all smile. My one and only son is grown. I could do with a bit less wind and rain! Any more of my history might cloud my message so I'll leave it at that.

I don't know for sure but I think rights of American mental patients vary from state to state. I know that no-one, no-one, can be involuntarily held longer than 72 hours in California without appearing before a judge in person and having an opportunity to speak. And have a conference with a lawyer if they ask for one.

nennypops Sat 04-Jan-14 20:42:12

And in the case of the italian woman, the only interests that were being considered were those of the child. As in all CP cases.

Not so. At the stage when the Court of Protection was dealing with this matter, they were concerned solely with the best interests of the mother. Have you read their judgment? It makes that very clear.

Was anyone truly acting in the mothers best interests? Her representation hadn't even met her.

I've seen that assertion made a number of times, and I've also seen the people making the assertion asked to produce some evidence; they've never yet managed to produce it. It may or may not be true, but I'd like to know where it comes from. What usually happens in cases involving the Official Solicitor is that a caseworker is appointed, and often an outside independent solicitor, and one or both generally will go to see the patient. I don't know whether it did or did not happen here, and it would be helpful to know if the OP actually has evidence one way or the other.

LokiIsMine Sat 04-Jan-14 20:48:58

@LittleDoris

People see what they want to see. You said "Its easy to underestimate the need to be heard when one is involved in something like this."

The reference to abuse and rape victims was about 'that', the need to be heard. Something that nobody cares about because in the 95% of rape/abuse cases nobody cares to listen to them.
And it has nothing to do with their children, of course, don't even know why you cared to add that....

LokiIsMine Sat 04-Jan-14 20:50:06

nennypops

Have you read their judgment? It makes that very clear.

I can bet 100£ that nobody read it.

Another "mental" person here (side note, it is offensive) who would much rather have someone who is actually fully able to think clearly doing the thinking/talking for me when I am in the middle of a bad episode. What use would I be to myself in that situation? And I "only" have depression, can't imagine how much worse it would be if I suffered from one of the illnesses that involved delusion/hallucinations.

Saying all this I am outraged by mental health care in this country, we need more funding to it, and for some of that funding to go towards paying for more not less advocacy services, and not just in courts. If you can't communicate your needs well then you should have access to someone who can speak for you, and there is little access to that.

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 21:00:40

The reference to abuse and rape victims was about 'that', the need to be heard. Something that nobody cares about because in the 95% of rape/abuse cases nobody cares to listen to them.

I'm still not sure why we are talking about this on a thread about people suffering from mental illness?

Talking about one issue on one thread on one forum does not mean any of us do not have feelings on other issues in the world.

Start a thread about victims of abuse and rape not being listened to in court and I will gladly comment on it, being a victim of both.

Spero Sat 04-Jan-14 21:01:48

As she was sectioned for a severe mental illness, it may well be that her lawyer did not meet her in person.

It seems you can react to that information in two ways.

The first is to start concocting tales of State corruption and persecution and denial of human rights.

the second is to think that it may not have helped anyone to insist on a conference between a lawyer and someone in a psychotic state. It may in some cases not actually be safe.

I have dealt with clearly mentally ill clients on very few occasions. Each remains very clear in my mind because they were such uncomfortable and difficult meetings. I remember one women staring at me with such hatred I felt incredibly uneasy. I tried ineffectually to engage her for five minutes, she just got up and left the court.

What was I supposed to do? Physically restrain her? I had tried to explain that we were at court to discuss whether or not her child remained in foster care. There were really serious concerns about her mental health but she would not engage with either the SW or her MH Team.

I still think about her. I don't know what happened to her or her child.

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 21:04:44

If you can't communicate your needs well then you should have access to someone who can speak for you, and there is little access to that

I would most likely change my stance on this issue if there was better provision available. Right now I couldn't trust anyone to be the one "who is actually fully able to think clearly doing the thinking/talking for me when I am in the middle of a bad episode."

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 21:07:48

What was I supposed to do? Physically restrain her? I had tried to explain that we were at court to discuss whether or not her child remained in foster care. There were really serious concerns about her mental health but she would not engage with either the SW or her MH Team.

She was at court though. She was being given the opportunity.

We can't force anyone to engage any more than we should be able to keep someone away.

"Right now I couldn't trust anyone to be the one "who is actually fully able to think clearly doing the thinking/talking for me when I am in the middle of a bad episode.""

Can understand that, however we need a system where those who cannot speak for themselves can still be represented. What's the alternative? Hope they muddle through? Or make them wait until they can, even if that day might never come?

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 21:11:22

Having representation and having the chance to speak for oneself in court do not have to be mutually exclusive though.

No, but if you are very very unwell then they may well be.

LittleDoris Sat 04-Jan-14 21:17:51

That's a dangerous way to look at it though. Should we be taking the lowest common denominator?

Some people who are sectioned are lucid throughout. Some are lucid the next day/week. Some never are.

Are we supposed to structure the process to accomodate those who never are without considering those who are?

If someone is incapable of answering the question "do you want to speak in court" then of course they shouldn't be taken to court, but we should still be asking the question.

In that case we need trained mental health professionals to make those decisions, for example the kind of professionals who decide if someone needs to be sectioned

JulieJingleBellsMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 04-Jan-14 21:21:12

Evening.

Many thanks to those who have pointed us in the direction of this thread.

There's quite a bit of terminology on here, such as 'mental' that we ask folk not to use.

This isn't about limiting valid debate, and of course some people may be posting in genuine ignorance. But where we think posters are refusing to engage sensibly with a debate, or appear to be unwilling to take on board the points that other posters are making, we will take action.

Our This Is My Child campaign www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/this-is-my-child has lots of information about the ways that people can make life a bit easier for disabled people and their carers. Mumsnet's raison d'etre is to make parents' lives easier, and we strongly believe that this includes all parents caring for children with disabilities, as well as all parents who have disabilities themselves.

MNHQ.

Thank you Julie

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now