MENTAL HEALTH CAMPAIGN: Government Backs Down over Mentally Ill ; IoS Campaign: Fierce Opposition from Patients and Carers Forces Ministers to Rewrite Controversial Mental Health Bill

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The Government has been forced to water down its flagship Mental Health Bill after fierce criticism from mental health charities, psychiatrists and patients.

The changes also follow intense pressure from The Independent on Sunday, whose campaign to improve the treatment of the mentally ill has now been running for one year.

The Bill was first announced 12 months ago but surprisingly dropped from the Queen's Speech amid huge opposition. It is now believed that ministers are working on a new draft. But despite some changes, the most controversial aspect - new powers to lock up mentally ill people who have not committed a crime - will remain.

Experts say the criteria for compulsory detention are so wide that even patients with mild anxiety could find themselves sectioned.

It is now understood that officials at the Home Office and Department of Health have reworded the Bill in favour of mental health patients. Early drafts that would have compelled psychiatrists to section people with severe personality disorders have now been altered so that their powers are merely discretionary.

However, ministers have emphasised that the sectioning power of courts will still be widened. Under the new reforms, judges will be able to send defendants who have not been charged or convicted of an imprisonable offence to a psychiatric hospital.

The Mental Health Bill is understood to be now ready to be introduced into the House of Commons where it is expected to face fierce opposition from MPs.

This week, members of the Mental Health Alliance, which represents more than 50 organisations, will meet at the House of Commons to mark the first anniversary of the proposed reforms.

Speakers at the meeting are expected to include Rabbi Julia Neuberger and David Hinchliffe MP, both of whom have already voiced their concern at sections of the Bill. …