Alliance policies: Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is an international treaty which declares certain human rights which are or should be protected by law in each state. The 1998 Human Rights Act (HRA) incorporates provisions from the ECHR directly into UK law.

One of the Government’s stated reasons for reforming the Mental Health Act 1983 was to ensure that legislation was brought into line with the HRA. The Alliance has long been concerned that many of the Government’s proposals to reform mental health law have fallen short of this objective.

We believe that any amendments to the 1983 Act must provide adequate legal safeguards for a vulnerable group of people who are subject to mental health legislation.

The 1983 Act has been subject to several challenges under the HRA and indeed the very first declaration of incompatibility under the HRA related to the Mental Health Act. The HRA is a ‘living instrument’ which changes its interpretation over time. There are still challenges to be brought and while the Government’s amendments may bring the 1983 Act into line, materially, with the HRA, other aspects of the MHA may need to be amended in the future. We believe that amending the 1983 Act should only be a short term measure that precedes the introduction of a Mental Health Bill, along the lines of the Scottish Mental Health Act, which promotes human rights and provides ethical and effective legislation for the 21st century.

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