THE RUSSELL MURDERS: Suspect slipped through net

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The Independent Online
THE MICHAEL Stone case, like so many others before it, showed the repeated failure of the authorities, campaigners claimed last night.

They called for a change in the law to help people known to be suffering from mental health problems before they kill. Under the Mental Health Act of 1983, a person can only be detained or "sectioned" if they are suffering from an illness which a doctor considers treatable.

As a result, while people suffering from illnesses such as schizophrenia - considered "treatable" - can receive help, many of those suffering from personality disorders - such as Stone - do not. The effect is that many people who may be dangerous are not detained.

A particular problem is how to deal with those who have a dual diagnosis of a personality disorder and drug addiction.

Many campaigners argue that it is vital the law is changed so a person is judged on their need for care and treatment rather than on whether they can be treated and cured. A review of the Mental Health Act is under way and the working party meets for the first time next week. Marjorie Wallace, director of the mental health charity Sane, said: "It is a crazy situation whereby people have to commit an offence before they are detained."

Stone's mental health and his violent personality disorder are central to the case. After release from prison in 1992 he was referred to a GP, who in turn passed him on to specialists. He ended up as an out-patient at a mental health unit where he was assessed as suffering from an "anti- social personality disorder", which led to his violence.

He was not considered mentally ill, although his persistent abuse of drugs gave the impression he was schizophrenic.

Last night, West Kent Health Authority said Stone could not have been forced into care against his will and was responsible for his own actions. It had not failed, it said.