Global first legislation to reduce mental health stigma passes final stage

Date published: 15 March 2016

Health Minister, Simon Hamilton, today announced that the Mental Capacity Bill has completed its final stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.


The Mental Capacity Bill delivers a key recommendation arising out of the Bamford Review by fusing mental health and mental capacity law into a single piece of legislation. Northern Ireland is the first country to ever attempt this approach.

Speaking during the Final Stage debate, Health Minister, Simon Hamilton said: “First and foremost, this Bill is about reducing the stigma still felt by many people suffering from mental disorder. It will introduce a new rights based legal framework that applies equally to every adult where there is a need to intervene in their lives on health grounds.”

The Bill will allow for no more separate rules for those with mental disorder; instead we will have rules that recognise every adult’s fundamental right to make decisions for themselves, if they have the capacity to do so. It is, of course, this “fused” approach that makes the Bill novel, indeed one of kind, within not only the UK but further afield.”

The Bill, introduced into the Assembly in June last year, is expected to receive Royal Assent in April and also contains significant new justice related provisions.

Marking the passage of the Bill, Justice Minister, David Ford, said: “This Bill deals with a number of civil and criminal justice matters. It contains High Court powers to make decisions for vulnerable individuals. It provides for the Police Service of Northern Ireland to remove a vulnerable person to a place of safety so that appropriate medical attention can be provided, and it facilitates the transfer to hospital of individuals who are subject to criminal proceedings or those who are detained in the criminal justice system.

“These powers respect a person’s right to make decisions about whether they wish to receive healthcare treatment, whilst ensuring that the criminal justice system continues to have robust mechanisms for safeguarding public protection.”

The Bill was developed under the watchful eye of those involved in the Bamford Review and the many stakeholders whose contribution has shaped the Bill from day one. Recognising their key role in its development, Minister Hamilton said: “Reaching the milestone of Final Stage has come about because of the efforts of many people within and outside government, not least the person who, put simply, came up with the idea in the first place, Professor David Bamford, and his successor, Professor Roy McClelland.”

Professor McClelland, the former Chairman of the Bamford Review, has been spearheading the new legislation since taking over the reins from Professor Bamford who sadly died before the Review concluded.

Concluding his remarks during the Final Stage debate, Minister Hamilton said: “Global firsts are not every-day occurrences, particularly for small jurisdictions such as ours. We can and should be immensely proud that Northern Ireland is considered to be leading the way in such an important area of law which, we should also remember, has the potential to touch on everyone’s lives. I would therefore urge everyone to support forthcoming efforts to turn the reforms in this Bill into reality for the many people in our society who more than deserve the new protections it offers.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Mental Capacity Bill completed its passage through the Assembly on 15 March 2016.
  2. The Bill delivers on a major recommendation of the Bamford Review into Mental Health and Learning Disability Services.
  3. It introduces a new, single, legislative framework governing all situations where a decision needs to be made in relation to the care, treatment (for a physical or mental illness) or personal welfare of a person aged 16 or over, who lacks capacity to make the decision for themselves, including those subject to the criminal justice system.
  4. A copy of the Bill and Explanatory and Financial Memorandum can be found on the Northern Ireland Assembly website.
  5. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 905522841. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Office via pager number on 07699715440 and your call will be returned.

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