Tougher rules for criminal psychiatric patients

People who are convicted of crimes and sentenced to psychiatric care could face tougher restrictions when they are released, according to Sweden's justice minister, Beatrice Ask.

Convicts sent to secure hospitals are released when their conditions are under control. Ask wants it to be made possible to take former patients back into hospital if they fail to take their medicine or if they start using drugs or alcohol.

“Today it is possible [for doctors] to prescribe medicine, but one cannot force someone to take it and one doesn’t check up on it. This is something we could change,” she told Svenska Dagbladet.

As well as forcing patients to take their medicine, Ask is considering demands for convicted psychiatric patients to live in a designated home and to keep regular contact with health workers. These proposals have already been put forward by an official psychiatry commission.

Concerns over the care of dangerous psychiatric patients in Sweden has grown in recent years following a number of random attacks by unstable individuals. The most high-profile of these was the murder of foreign minister Anna Lindh by Mijailo Mijailovic, who was reported in the media to have been released from a psychiatric institution just days before the killing.

As of May 2005, the last date for which figures are available, 1,400 convicts were in secure psychiatric units. Of these, 900 were classed as needing special permission before they could be released. In these cases, a court must approve applications for release.