Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Legal status of personality disorder

Within England and Wales there has been a legal classification of ‘psychopathic disorder’ since the Mental Health Act was passed into law. This included the concept of the compulsory admission of people deemed to have ‘persistent disorders of mind which resulted in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the patient, and require or are susceptible to treatment’. This legal definition was simplified although made no less ambiguous with the introduction of the Mental Health Act. This defines psychopathic disorder as ‘a persistent disorder or disability, which results in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct on the part of the person concerned’..

This new legal definition appears to remove the caveat that the disorder require or be susceptible to treatment. However, the definition of psychopathic disorder is only applicable to detention under sections 3, 37 and 47. Each of these sections of the Mental Health Act deem that a patient be detained due to them suffering with a psychopathic disorder, cannot be compulsorily admitted unless it can be shown that their treatment ‘is likely to alleviate or prevent a deterioration in their condition’. However, the legal meaning of psychopathic disorder is not universally agreed. It was concluded by the Report of the Department of Health and Home Office Working Group on Psychopathic Disorder  that, ‘It is generally accepted that the term psychopathic disorder does not represent a single clinical disorder but is a legal category describing a number of severe personality disorders, which contribute to the person committing anti-social acts, usually of a recurrent or episodic type.’ There is no legal classification of psychopathic disorder.

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