Dementia and Human Rights – Part 2
So I’ve covered the first few rights under the Human Rights Convention, lets look at some more:
The next right in the sequence is the Article 5 – Right to Liberty and Security. Security in this context means security of the body, ie freedom from someone harming you physically. Liberty is about freedom from detention except under clearly prescribed circumstances. Loss of Liberty is in part about criminal detention, if someone is arrested and convicted of a crime, they may lose their Liberty with a prison term, which is one of the prescribed circumstances when it is acceptable to deprive a person of their liberty. The convention also indicates that if that person is arrested but not yet convicted, then they should have a fair and speedy trial. It would not be fair to have the trial so speedy that the prosecution or defence was unprepared, however it would also not be fair to delay the trial for 10 years and keep the person remanded all that time, for them only to be found innocent later. In the meantime they’ve lost 10 years!!
For someone with dementia it is more likely that they would be detained under The Mental Health Act 1984 where someone is “sectioned”. This happens when they are considered to be at risk of serious harm to themselves or someone else. This kind of detention happens regularly and what the convention indicates is that it is fine, but it has to be done in accordance with the sets of rules governing that kind of detention (just like the criminal justice system) and that any breach of those rules can be subject to challenge. Therefore when anyone with a dementia is sectioned, the circumstances should be carefully considered, especially so, as they may not be able to appeal any decision made about them, either at the time or later due to their cognitive impairment, whereas someone with a severe depression or psychotic episode may be able to recover from their sectionable mental state.
Security of the body – we are all entitled to have the criminal justice system in place to protect us from attack. This can be very relevant for someone with dementia, as they are vulnerable and can make a poor witness to any crime. Even when there is physical evidence of harm, it can be passed off that they “fell”. This is exactly the kind of situation where the Dementia Friends social awareness campaign can make a difference, with a million people within society just keeping a watchful, caring and compassionate eye on those around them with dementia.
The next couple of Article Rights are about the criminal side of detention, which whilst will still be relevant for people with dementia, it is not such a day to day issue, so I won’t go into detail about them. Article 6 – Right to a Fair Trial and Article 7 – No Punishment without Law. The trial should be timely, in public, impartial and that the result is publicly announced. It is noted that the press and public can be excluded from the trial for reasons of amongst others, national security or to protect the rights of juveniles or the private lives of the parties involved, it can also be done for the interests of justice. This removal from of the press and public can be for part or all of any trial and is at the discretion of the Court, which usually means the Judge.
One of the key points to remember in all of this, is that people with dementia are still people and whatever the rights that people are entitled to, people with dementia are entitled to the same rights.