Preventive detention for people with personality disorder is wrong

October 28, 1999

(Dangerous people with severe personality disorder: British proposals for managing them are glaringly wrong - and unethical)

Government proposals for detaining indefinitely people with dangerous severe personality disorder masquerade as extensions to mental health services but are in fact unethical proposals for preventive detention, says an editorial in this week's BMJ.

Forensic Psychiatrist Professor Paul Mullen of Victoria, Australia, writes that the UK Government paper Framework for the Future is intended to circumvent the European Convention on human rights which prohibits preventive detention except in those of unsound mind.

Of the Government's proposals, Professor Mullen says: "With their promises of new money and research funding they hope to bribe doctors into complicity in the indefinite detention of certain selected offenders."

He adds "There is a crying need for mental health services for severely personality disordered individuals...The British Government's proposals largely ignore the central issue of developing appropriate treatment services in favour of creating a system for locking up men and women who frighten officials".

Professor Paul Mullen, Professor Forensic Psychiatry, Monash University and Institute of Forensic Mental Health, Victoria, Australia. Email:


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