When a serious crime—say a murder—is committed by someone who has been discharged or has absconded from prison the public reaction is extreme. And public anger is not appeased by psychiatrists and sociologists who argue in the media the case either for all mental disorders being capable of treatment leading at least to partial cure or that all crime springs from unfortunate social circumstances. In the two papers which follow the situation is described how psychopathic and other mentally abnormal offenders are dealt with at the present time, and how the Aarvold and Butler Committees were set up. The Aarvold Committee (Chairman, Mr Justice Aarvold) was to be concerned with tightening the provisions of the law as it now stands whereas the Butler Committee (Chairman, Lord Butler) was asked to look into and recommend changes in the law relating to these offenders. The Aarvold Committee reported swiftly and the Butler Committee made its final report in 1975. (An interim report was produced in 1974.) It is with the Butler Report that Dr Rollin and Dr Norton are principally concerned here. The fundamental aim of both committees was to maintain a balance between `what is best for those guilty of dangerous offences and the right of the public to be protected'. Both writers describe the various forms of detention for psychopathic offenders in operation and proposed, and both conclude that the Butler Report offers wise and realistic guidance but fear that continuing official inertia will preclude the recommendations ever being implemented. Dr Norton deals particularly with the concept of `dangerousness', and the controversial issue of the Butler `reviewable sentences' for mentally abnormal offenders.
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