An independent review of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 is asking if learning disability and autism should be defined as mental disorders.

The review seeks to understand what forms of law could most effectively promote and protect the human rights of people who have these conditions. The Chair, Andrew Rome, will report to the Minister for Mental Health in December 2019.

The review will test the 2003 Act against requirements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Stage 1 of the review seeks evidence from legal professionals with relevant experience until 30 November 2018.

The 2003 Act followed the Millan Committee’s review of Scotland’s 1984 Act. Millan therefore recommended that the definition of mental disorder should include learning disability and autistic spectrum disorders.

Learning disability became one of three categories of mental disorder in the 2003 Act. The position of autism in this Act is less clear, but in practice, autism is encompassed by the Act’s broad definition of mental disorder.

The Law Society of Scotland suggested to Millan that if learning disability were to remain within the Mental Health Act there should be a specific part of the Act dealing with this group. The 2003 Act reflected proposals from the Law Society, but not that suggestion. Millan called for a specific review on learning disability in mental health law. This is that review.


Individuals and organisations are invited to submit evidence. Surveys can be obtained at www.irmha.scot or from irmha.scot@nhs.net