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Mental health court plans attract support

Legislation to create a mental health treatment court and two new quangos have been approved by the Senate with broad support.

The Criminal Code Amendment Act 2016 will formally create a mental health court, solidifying a successful pilot programme launched in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority Act 2016 and the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority Act 2016 lay the framework for two new quangos, which will be responsible for the island’s aircraft and shipping registries respectively.

OBA senator Georgia Marshall, who introduced the Criminal Code Amendment Act, said she believed the legislation would meet the dual goal of protecting the public while working to ensure that those who need assistance will receive it.

Marc Daniels, Opposition senate leader and a practising lawyer, expressed his full support for the programme, noting the hard work of the people who have made the pilot programme a success.

While he said the programme may face its challenges, he looks forward to its development and streamlining over time.

Independent senator Joan Dillas Wright, meanwhile, noted her experiences working in mental health, saying she is sure many industry professionals are happy to see something put in place to end the “revolving door” that some patients find themselves caught in.

“In other jurisdictions these programmes have been successful and I commend everybody involved,” she said.

Fellow independent senator James Jardine also expressed his support, saying the bill was long overdue.

The other two Acts also received support from the Progressive Labour Party, although some concerns were expressed about how the transition would impact the government’s finances and the employment of staff.

Discussing the legislation Michael Fahy, the Minister for Tourism, Transport and the Municipalities, had told the chamber that the move had been recommended by the SAGE Report as a means of making the registries more competitive.

Senator Jardine, however, expressed worries about the increasing number of quangos, each of which requires a government capital investment.

He also questioned what the total cost of the changes would be, asking if the new quangos would result in decreased net revenue for the consolidated fund, noting that last year the airline registry alone brought in a net profit of $21.7 million.

“My concerns about the plethora of quangos still stands, and the Government needs to look at the nearly 50-odd government organisations that we have,” he said.

Meanwhile, both Joan Dillas Wright and Renee Ming questioned if the benefits of employees would be protected in the move to a quango.

Senator Fahy noted the concerns, saying that a clause included in the legislation gives the Government more budgeting oversight over the new quangos than others, and that the administration will continue to be under the final oversight of the Governor. And he said employees making the move from the department to the quango would be offered similar or better benefits, and the removal from government bureaucracy would enable the body to better diversify and compete internationally.