homeless, disabled, psych patients lack civil rights in Ireland

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 24 May 1998 14:04:38 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.irish-times.com:80/irish-times/paper/1998/0521/hom3.html
FWD  The Irish Times  IRELAND  Thursday, May 21, 1998

"Those suffering from mental health problems were "practically
criminalised".  Another category of people not adequately protected was the
homeless, according to Mr MacGuill. "The law never got beyond the concept
of vagrancy."
--from article below


     SUBMISSIONS HIGHLIGHT NEED FOR REFORM

     By Carol Coulter


Following submissions from a number of voluntary bodies, the Law Society
will be proposing law reform in areas where injustices and anomalies have
been identified.

The process began when the society advertised in its publications for
submissions from members on problems which they had encountered with
present legislation. This was extended to writing to many voluntary
organisations, asking them to make submissions on problems with the law.

The society was overwhelmed by the response, according to Mr James
MacGuill, chairman of the society's law reform committee. Some 100
responses came from their members, mainly of a technical nature. A similar
number came from the voluntary organisations, which were of a more general
nature, and tended to highlight specific legal gaps and problems.

The problems highlighted were in areas such as the treatment of victims of
crime, family law, domestic violence and the law relating to people with
disabilities.

Mr. MacGuill said a number of the proposals from groups representing
victims of crime were also made at the Crime Forum, at which the society
was represented. The committee would have no problem with suggestions like
keeping victims informed of the progress of a case, involving them more in
the trial and obtaining compensation.

He said the submissions identified gaps in the legislation on domestic
violence, where certain categories of people were not protected. On family
law, the legislation relating to adoptive parents and adopted children had
not kept pace with developments.

Submissions had also identified areas where the rights of people with
disabilities were not adequately protected. Those suffering from mental
health problems were "practically criminalised".

Another category of people not adequately protected was the homeless,
according to Mr MacGuill. "The law never got beyond the concept of
vagrancy."

A strand which ran through a number of submission was that people had a
difficulty, yet did not realise a law existed which could deal with it.
This raisedthe question of how well the Government publicised the law.

The evolution of legislation meant that there were various laws relating to
the one subject which had never been consolidated or codified. However,
this was a vast area and one which went beyond the immediate plans of the
Law Society.

The next task of the law reform committee, said Mr MacGuill, was to sort
out the submissions according to their importance and feasibility, and then
pick a few projects to work on in the short term.

It is not intended that the Law Society's proposals will have any
significant implication for Exchequer spending.

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