To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, for what reasons Brian Healless was sent to a mental health institution rather than a prison following his sentencing on 24 March 2020.
5 May 2020
I understand that officials have written to the Honourable Member, providing a full explanation of the decisions taken in the case of Mr Healless.
The Mental Health Act 1983 (the 1983 Act) provides powers for the Court to divert people during trial or at the point of sentencing away from the criminal justice system to hospital for assessment and/or treatment for their condition. Alternatively, if a convicted (or remanded) prisoner becomes unwell or experiences a relapse in an existing condition while in prison custody, the 1983 Act also provides for the Secretary of State for Justice to direct that the prisoner be transferred to a secure hospital for treatment. The 1983 Act stipulates the criteria which must be met before the Secretary of State may authorise detention in a secure hospital - namely that on the recommendation of two psychiatrists, the prisoner is suffering of a mental disorder of a nature or degree that warrants hospital detention. Any such transfer does not alter the sentence of the Court, including where the sentence is mandatory life imprisonment for murder.
At the point a prisoner who has been transferred to hospital responds positively to treatment and no longer meets the criteria for detention under the 1983 Act, he will return to prison to serve the remainder of their custodial sentence. In the case of a prisoner serving a life sentence, he will be eligible for release only where he has completed the minimum term set by the Court. He will only then be released if an independent Parole Board has assessed that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public for the offender to remain confined.
Where prisoners are transferred to hospital for treatment under the 1983 Act, they are most likely to be subject to a restriction order. This means that certain decisions about the management of that patient, for instance decisions over leave and transfer, are subject to the consent of the Secretary of State. This function exists to ensure public protection is upheld.