Letter: Mentally ill let down

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Jack Straw's proposal to incarcerate people on the grounds that they might perhaps commit a crime at some future time (report, 20 July) clarifies why the Government ignores the possibility of creating a Bill of Rights or written constitution.

A Bill of Rights along North American or European models would effectively rule out any possibility of arbitrary imprisonment of the kind proposed.

The proposal is all the more astonishing when you consider that there are many hundreds of people currently free who will, as statistics year upon year prove, kill completely innocent citizens and ruin many lives as a consequence. Their symptoms are easily detectable: a cavalier attitude towards speed limits, driving dangerously close to others on motorways at high speed, ignoring warnings to slow down, treating pedestrians and cyclists as irritants. When, eventually, they are convicted of killing third parties, their assumed lack of intention to do harm is recognised by the imposition of relatively small fines or, at most, brief imprisonment.

It is instructive to imagine the public outcry if it were proposed that these potential killers should, on the basis of their symptoms alone, be imprisoned until they were ready to re-enter society.

Those suffering from mental illness have been outrageously let down by our health system. To make them scapegoats for the failure of our duty of care towards them is profoundly unjust.


Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire