EDP: Is this in the public interest? Man who attempted suicide in hospital car park is taken to court

Peter Walsh of the Eastern Daily Press reports:

Campaigners have criticised a decision to prosecute a man experiencing mental health problems who lay down in front of vehicles at a Norfolk hospital in an attempt to kill himself.

The 40-year-old man, who we have decided not to name, lay down in front of two buses and a taxi at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital as he “wanted to be run over”.

He was apprehended by security staff who called police after he became “confrontational”.

He told officers that he had wanted to kill himself.

The man was subsequently charged with causing, without reasonable excuse, a nuisance on NHS property on June 24 this year.

The case was heard at Norwich Magistrates Court on Tuesday (July 16) with the defendant stating he had not been in a “good place” having recently been released from a mental health unit.

At the time he told officers he was “not in the right frame of mind” but he has since been medicated and feels “better”.

The man, who represented himself in court, said he just wanted to “say sorry”.

He was fined £120, ordered to pay a £50 contribution towards costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

But mental health campaigners have criticised the decision to bring the case to court in the first place.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “The police and courts are having to pick up the pieces of failing mental health services after years of cuts and mismanagement.

“Fining people who need help must surely be the last resort in a caring society. Commissioners and politicians love to talk about prevention but consistently fail to deliver it: What is needed is properly-funded mental health services offering prompt and professional treatment.”

What the EDP and Evening News say…

Those in the grips of a mental health crisis need support. Immediate, patient and focused support.

It’s no secret that services are under strain. Mental health trusts around the country are in great demand, and many are struggling to cope. Police, courts and charities are picking up the pieces. They do what they can, but it is no substitute for proper, qualified care.

In today’s paper, we’ve covered the story of a man who found himself in court because of his actions during a crisis.

Shortly after being released from a mental health unit, he laid down in front of two buses and a taxi at a Norfolk hospital, insisting that he wanted to die.

It’s hard to imagine the pain, fear and confusion he must have been facing. The desperation required to arrive at that decision – and take action towards it. But yesterday, he found himself in court. His charge? Causing a nuisance on NHS property.

Putting the clunky and, in this case, immensely insensitive wording of the charge aside, it is scandalous that a man so distressed he wanted to end his life should face legal action.

It is, of course, a hugely sensitive area. If someone commits a murder while in the grips of a severe mental health crisis, serious consequences would be needed.

In this man’s case, though, no-one was injured. He was apologetic. Felt guilty. This was a person in desperate difficulty.

Is it really in the public interest to take him to court? To waste not only public funds and court time, but to make him relive a hugely difficult time?

Services are stretched. But it doesn’t excuse a lack of care for those in need.

Click on the image below to read the article in full on the EDP website:

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