14 MARCH 1958, Page 7

IT is SATISFACTORY to hear that the Government intends to

implement most of the recommenda- tions of the Royal Commission on Mental Illness. The number of such reports which are shelved is notoriously high; often because their recommen- dations are unpalatable but sometimes because, as in this case, there are genuine legal difficulties. In our correspondence columns Dr. Donald Johnson, MP, refers to one of the snags : whether medical conditions can be, or should be, defined in legal terms. The Commission thought it unnecessary; the Home Secretary disagrees. What is important is that machinery should be provided to deal with doubtful cases—notably psychopaths—so that they should not be deprived of the protection of the law merely because of the opinions of medi- cal authorities. Prison governors, after all, very often know that a dangerous criminal who is about to be released is determined to resume a life of crime; but they are not permitted to extend his sentence indefinitely on that account.

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