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Mentally Defective Prisoner, North London (Treatment)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 8 July 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that a 19-yearold man was sent to prison for three months by the North London magistrate on 5th June last, because no place was available in a hospital for mental defectives: and whether he will take steps to suspend the sentence and arrange for suitable hospital treatment.

This man has been certified as a mental defective since his conviction and I shall be ready to make an Order under Section 9 of the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, for his transfer to an appropriate institution if a vacancy can be found before his sentence expires. I understand, however, that all the mental deficiency hospitals in the region have long waiting lists and it may prove impossible to find a vacancy.

In that event, I should not feel justified in recommending any interference with the sentence imposed by the magistrate in full knowledge of all the circumstances of the case.

Is it not quite monstrous that a mental defective should have to be sent to prison solely because the magistrate said that the hospital services seem to have broken down completely? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that we are civilised while such a case exists?

The hon. and gallant Member must ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health about the shortage of accommodation for mental defectives, but I must point out in fairness that the magistrate said:

"There seems to be but one thing I can do to protect the public, and that is to send you to prison for three months."
In view of that, it would be very difficult for me to let the man out.