A single tribunal structure to deal with all issues of mental health and adult incapacity is the centrepiece of new proposals from the Law Society of Scotland for a major overhaul of the Scots law in this area.
In its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a report by the Scottish Law Commission, the Society states that the current system frequently and seriously lets down vulnerable adults with dementia, learning disabilities and other causes of incapacity.
It wants to see the separate jurisdictions, currently fragmented across courts and tribunals, combined in a single tribunal structure, with specialist expertise and local accessibility across Scotland.
Adrian Ward, convener of the Law Society’s Mental Health and Disability Committee, claimed that "important cost savings and vital improvements in service speed and quality" would result from combining the separate operation of the regimes under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000, the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007.
“As a matter of urgency, Scotland must improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation of the combined jurisdictions resulting from the three separate Acts that are intended to protect adults with incapacity, those with mental health issues and others that needs support and protection", Mr Ward said.
“In particular, the current position under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 is inefficient and ineffective and the fragmented operation across the UK jurisdictions wastes public resources, drains legal aid funds and is expensive, time consuming and stressful for many of those involved in its procedures.”
He added: “The Act was world-leading in its time but it now it is in desperate need of updating to ensure people at risk are protected. There needs to be a massive and comprehensive review of all three areas of legislation, taking account of current UN and European human rights standards for people with intellectual disabilities.”
The Society has urged political parties to commit to updating or reviewing specific areas of legislation in its priorities for the next Scottish Parliament.