The Government's proposed amendments to the Norwegian Mental Health Care Act aim to strengthen the security measures relating to a small group of particularly dangerous patients. The proposal introduces new security provisions for the Regional Departments for Forensic and Security Psychiatry and a legal basis for the establishment of a unit with a particularly high level of security.
- The current act implies a too great a risk for escape, hostage-taking and severe violence against patients and staff in the health institutions where particular dangerous patients stay. There is no distinction between different levels of security. The Government wishes to correct these shortcomings.
- The proposal applies only to the level of security. It does not change the law in terms of whether or how long a convicted person should undergo compulsory mental health care, says the Minister of Health and Care Services, Mrs. Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen.
The current regulations do not provide sufficient access to examine whether exceptionally dangerous patients bring dangerous objects such as knives, razor blades and firearms into the regional security departments. The institutions are not allowed to check if visitors bring with them dangerous objects and may not require criminal records of personnel. These shortcomings of the current regulations has been pointed out by the specialist community prior to 22 July.
The bill extends the right to carry out security measures in regional security departments. The proposal allows extended powers to search patients, to control and limit the patients' communication with the outside world, to search guests and to conduct background checks of people working at Regional Departments for Forensic and Security Psychiatry.
The Government also proposes a new legal basis for establishing a unit with an especially high level of security with special safety regulations. The unit shall be subject to the instructions of one of the regional security departments and must meet the requirements of health institutions. The proposal allows for a location within the walls of a prison, but a decision has not been made whether and where such a unit may be located.
- The case against the terror suspect of July 22, currently in preparation before the courts, has highlighted the need for this type of legislation. An eventual conviction to compulsory mental health care must be carried out in a specialist health institution and the transfer must take place "immediately" after the final sentence. The Parliament should be given the opportunity to adopt the necessary legislation before summer, so that security can be put in place as quickly as possible.
- I recognize the disadvantages of a short consultation period. However, I still believe that the security concerns and the population's need of feeling safe must take priority, says the Minister of Health and Care Services, Mrs. Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen.
As a further contribution to strengthen the security, we will establish a national coordination unit charged with keeping track of those who are sentenced to compulsory psychiatric care. The proposed provisions will, among other things, regulate the coordination unit's access to store information about the defendants.
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