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New law may see dangerous patients on bail

Dr Lynda Scott National Health Spokesperson

23 October 2003

New law may see dangerous patients on bail

National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott says she's shocked Justice Minister Phil Goff has pushed through last minute legislation allowing mental health patients out of secure care when they are not fit to stand trial.

"On the very day that Counties Manukau Health is criticised for releasing mental health patient Paul Ellis, who killed his father, the Labour Government has passed legislation that means people considered unfit to plead in court because they are insane or mentally ill, can be released into the community on bail.

"Phil Goff sneaked this amendment to the Criminal Justice Amendment Bill (No 7) through Parliament last night without it going to select committee for consultation, or any opportunity for public scrutiny. Opposition parties opposed the change but Labour pushed it through.

"Phil Goff says these people don't pose any risk. He obviously hasn't heard a thing about the Paul Ellis case. This legislation shows the blind ignorance Labour has toward mental health, and the support that patients and their families need.

"I am absolutely stunned that on the day we learn the full story, and get sound recommendations about the release of patients, following the tragic Paul Ellis case, that this legislation has gone through. "There is already a lack of places to care for these patients. What happens now when the beds are full and a Judge can't place a person who needs assessment? Their families will have to provide the care.

Dr Scott will seek leave to table her member's bill to amend the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment Treatment) Act when Parliament sits again on November 4. The Bill will give families more involvement in the care of mentally ill members, improve patient assessment, and ensure a patient can't seek a judicial review for release within 72 hours.

"This would have meant the Ellis family would've been listened to and Paul Ellis would not have been released without proper assessment," she said.


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