Safety comes first

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Comment -

WHEN it comes to the is­sue of men­tal ill­ness, so­ci­ety has made huge progress in re­cent years. Ta­boos have been shat­tered and we now pub­licly dis­cuss some­thing that, un­til re­cently, was con­sid­ered best kept quiet.

This is as it should be. Men­tal ill­ness can have the most dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on those af­fected and those clos­est to them and our greater un­der­stand­ing of it can only be a good thing.

But we have grave con­cerns about a plan to re­lease men­tally ill crim­i­nals into the com­mu­nity, where they would be mon­i­tored with elec­tronic tags.

One con­sul­tant who has worked with of­fend­ers whose crimes have been judged to be the re­sult of men­tal ill­ness warns that the re­lease of some of those de­tained in psy­chi­atric units could be ‘cat­a­strophic’.

The Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives’ spokesman on men­tal health, An­nie Wells, ar­gues that there may be a case for the use of tag­ging in some cases.

She may be right. She is cer­tainly right when she states that pub­lic safety must be the num­ber one con­cern.

There are already con­cerns that the pol­icy of early re­lease from main­stream pris­ons is in­flu­enced by the need to save money.

It would be in­tol­er­a­ble if men­tally ill of­fend­ers were freed in or­der to cut costs rather than be­cause it was the right – and safe – thing to do.

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