Next week Ireland will be examined by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) – and the impact of austerity measures on the Irish public over the last several years will be scrutinised. In this post, I highlight some key issues from a disability and mental health perspective which might be addressed by the Committee, based on the concerns outlined by various civil society groups. Continue reading “Ireland’s Record on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights – Disability and Mental Health Perspectives”
Ireland’s progress in implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is due to be examined by the Human Rights Committee next Monday. Many civil society organizations have provided information to the Human Rights Committee on the reality of civil and political rights protections in Ireland – including Amnesty, ICCL, IPRT, Survivors of Symphysiotomy, LGBT Noise, and others. However, relatively few of the submissions made focus on the violations of civil and political rights which affect people with disabilities and those with experience of the mental health system. One submission which does address these issues is that made by the Recovery Experts by Experience (REE) – a group of ‘experienced users/survivors of Mental Health Services, formerly known as the Expert by Experience Advisory Group (EEAG) to Amnesty International Ireland’s Mental Health Campaign.’ You can read the full text of the submission here. Continue reading “Civil and political rights in mental health – Ireland's dialogue with the Human Rights Committee”
Last week the High Court issued a significant judgment in the case of MX v HSE. An earlier judgment in the same case on an issue of judicial review is available here. The most recent judgment addresses issues of constitutionality and compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights regarding the treatment of a patient in the Central Mental Hospital without her consent. A novel argument was made in the case regarding the direct effect of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities following its conclusion by the European Union – even though Ireland has not yet ratified the Convention. This argument was however dismissed by MacMenamin J, although he acknowledged the guidance provided by the Convention in relation to issues of legal capacity.
I will focus my analysis of the case here on the issues of the plaintiff’s perceived lack of mental capacity to consent to treatment, and the availability of independent review of her treatment, with a view to outlining how the UN Convention takes us in a different direction from the procedural safeguards provided for in the ECHR, and will discuss how a new approach to consent to treatment, and support to exercise legal capacity is required.
As several newspapers have noted today, the UN Committee against Torture has released its Concluding Observations for Ireland (all documents are available here). This is the Committee’s response to Ireland’s first periodic report. Fiona detailed the core issues on which the Committee was expected to focus here. We hope to have fuller posts on some of these issues in due course, and of course, welcome guest commentary from others researching in relevant areas.
We are very pleased to welcome this guest post from Dr. Claire Murray, Lecturer in Law at University College Cork.
Under section 51 of the Mental Health Act 2001 (MHA 2001) the Inspector of Mental Health Services is required to visit every approved centre in the country at least once during the year and to report to the Mental Health Commission. The Commission has a statutory responsibility to promote high standards and good practices in the delivery of mental health services. The 2010 Annual Report of the Commission was published on the 2nd June 2011. As with previous annual reports the slow rate of change in mental health service provision is emphasised. This delay in moving to a modern rights-based mental health framework is particularly frustrating when, as stated by the Inspector, “mental health services have been traditionally neglected, need radical reform/modernisation, are chronically under-resourced and deal with individuals with severe conditions which adversely affect themselves, their families and society.”
The BBC is reporting that a 21 year old man has died in Maghaberry Prison. Aaron Hogg was on remand. He was found in his cell yesterday morning. What raises even more concern about this tragedy is that it follows on from two other deaths in custody this month.
Earlier this month two young people committed suicide in Hydebank Wood. Samuel Carson was aged 19 and Frances McKeown aged 23. The BBC reports that ligatures were removed from both cells. The deaths are said to be unconnected. The Director of the Prison Service, Colin McConnell, said in his statement that in the past the staff had had ’cause for concern in terms of their behaviour and demeanour.’ They were not considered at risk in recent weeks and so were been attended to the same as all inmates. Three inquiries will now be held into the deaths: the coroner, the PSNI and the Prisoner Ombudsman. Continue reading “Deaths in NI Prisons”
Last week, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, issued a Human Rights Comment stating that “persons with disabilities must not be denied the right to vote.” Commissioner Hammarberg’s comment came as a result of a number of key developments in the jurisprudence on electoral rights for people with disabilities within the Council of Europe over the past year. Continue reading “Commissioner for Human Rights speaks out against denial of voting rights to people with disabilities”
This is a joint post by Eilionóir Flynn and Charles O’ Mahony.
On Monday, while commotion ensued in Dáil Éireann and political controversy and speculation abounded, a small group of individuals were cut off from the nearby action in a seminar (co-hosted by the Centre for Disability Law and Policy and Amnesty International Ireland) about the implications of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for mental health law in Ireland. Although it might seem to some that this is a strange time to be talking about mental health reform given the current economic crisis, one of the central themes of the event is one which has serious resonance for Ireland’s current predicament.
Gabór Gombos (pictured), a newly elected member of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (and a former mental health service user) presented the following as his key message: we should not compromise on the core norms of dignity and autonomy when faced with difficulties in implementation. Rather, we should accept genuine steps in a positive direction, even where these start from a very low base. This reasoning does not only have its basis on the notion of progressive realisation enshrined in international human rights law. Rather, it presupposes that, as a nation, there is a consensus on the type of society we want to have and what rights and responsibilities this would entail. It appears that such a consensus has never been sought from the Irish people and the current situation serves as a reminder for the need for a rational public discourse on the norms that we agree to live by and be governed by.
The Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety proposes to introduce combined mental health and mental capacity legislation in early 2011. A consultation process has commenced and the Department is receiving submissions on the proposed legislation up to 31 October 2010. This legislative proposal is significant as it would make Northern Ireland the first jurisdiction to introduce such a combined approach (although there are some examples of jurisdictions, such as Scotland, which have introduced a capacity test in mental health legislation).
Those in favour of a combined system argue that this will prevent individuals from falling between the cracks of existing legislative provisions. It is also argued that a combined mental health and mental capacity system would be more compliant with international human rights norms, especially the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)– as it would prioritise autonomy and capacity (rather than diagnosis of mental disorder and risk of harm) as the key principles in determining whether compulsory treatment or detention can be authorised.
This month, the Department of Health and Children published the Fourth Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Group on the implementation of A Vision for Change, Ireland’s blueprint for mental health policy, published in 2006. The report was prepared by the Second Monitoring Group to be established under Vision for Change – which was appointed in early 2009, and similar to previous annual reports, is highly critical of the lack of progress in implementing the goals of A Vision for Change made to date.
Traditionally, mental health was a neglected area of legislation, policy and service provision in Ireland – particularly in terms of developing appropriate mechanisms to respect and protect the rights of mental health service users. The purpose of A Vision for Change was to rectify this by setting out a new framework for mental health service delivery in Ireland– one based on community care (rather than institutionalisation) and person-centred treatment, following the recovery model and a holistic approach to mental illness. One of the main recommendations of the original Vision for Change report was the establishment of multi-disciplinary community mental health teams to serve deﬁned populations and age groups throughout re-conﬁgured mental health catchments areas. In order to implement this new structure for service delivery, the report also recommended the establishment of a National Mental Health Services Directorate, to work closely with the HSE on the roll-out of A Vision for Change.