The way a former policeman was arrested and taken to a mental hospital could have been illegal, an alliance for mental health has warned after a clip emerged taken by the arrestee himself.

The A4MH requested the Commissioner for Mental Health and the Police Governing Board to officially investigate and to ascertain that all procedures as established by the Mental Health Act were appropriately followed when Mario Portelli was arrested from his home.

Mr Portelli was the chief witness in the trial against former police inspector-turned-lawyer David Gatt, who had been accused of being involved in the failed heist of HSBC’s operations centre in Qormi in 2007.

In recent videos uploaded on Facebook, Mr Portelli made serious claims against both the Prime Minister and Economy Minister Chris Cardona. 

Claiming the government was trying to stop him from confronting Joseph Muscat on Sunday about his (secret company) Egrant "lies", on Friday Mr Portelli filmed his distress as police officers turned up at his home to take him to Mount Carmel hospital. The last shot of the clip showed a policeman trying to snatch his mobile phone from him.

There appeared to be no doctor present when he was taken away by force.

'Investigate and take action'

In a statement on Saturday, the A4MH said it expected both the commissioner and the police board to investigate the case, publish their conclusions and take all necessary action to address any shortcomings which it may have identified.

The alliance, which is constituted by representatives of the professionals and the service users of mental health services, said it did not wish to comment on the specific case, saying it did not know the details. 

The A4MH is highly aware of the distress that involuntary admission to a psychiatric hospital can cause, primarily to the person concerned and their families, and also to the professionals that are involved in the case.

It said it recognises there are situations where involuntary hospitalisation is unavoidable.

There are stringent requirements laid down by law through the Mental Health Act (Cap 525) that govern the procedures for such admission

However, there are stringent requirements laid down by law through the Mental Health Act (Cap 525) that govern the procedures for such admission.

These procedures determine that a medical doctor would have reviewed the person and recommended hospitalisation as the only reasonable course of action to preserve life and safety. The doctor would also establish that there are no safe alternatives that are less restrictive.

There is also the requirement that either the person's responsible carer/next of kin, or a specifically-trained mental welfare officer would also have met with the patient in the immediacy, and would have agreed that admission would be necessary to protect the individual or others due to the presence of mental illness.

Only at that point can a person be transported to a psychiatric facility, it said.

The A4MH said once in a psychiatric facility, there are legally mandated requirements for a person to be reviewed within specified periods of time by specialists in psychiatry to confirm the on-going need for hospital-based care. 

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