During a formal assessment in a private dwelling conducted without a warrant under s135(1) of the Mental Health Act, the police have NO powers to use force until the AMHP has ‘sectioned’ the patient or unless a criminal offence is attempted or a breach of the peace apprehended. <<< This is what I refer to as ‘the legal caveat’ which will be mentioned below:
‘RAVE risks‘ is term I use below and it means a risk of one or more from this list: Resistance, Aggression, Violence or Escape.
If you are a duty sergeant or frontline cop asked to attend an assessment in a private premises, it is important that you do not just attend and do as you are told, but think about the reasons to be there, risks to be faced; and the resources required to conduct and control the assessment.
Think about it in light of the ‘legal caveat’ above – “No powers to use force until …” Additionally, you should remember that there are Health & Safety as well as Human Rights obligations upon the attending professionals.
Is there a warrant?
- Does the AMHP already have a warrant under s135(1) at the point of requesting police support?
- YES – and so you must attend the assessment because only the police can execute the warrant.
- You should request the AMHP to provide relevant risk information which allows a proper determination of police resources, do your own background and intelligence searches on PNC etc.; then muster your officers, stop reading this and crack on.
If there is no warrant:
- Ask whether there is there a risk of a ‘RAVE’ once inside the target premises?
- NO – you are not actually obligated to attend the assessment, because the AMHP has authority to enter the premises and to assess, detain and convey to hospital if admitted.
- If there no more risks than an AMHPs ‘normal business’, for what purpose are the police required?
- That said, nothing prevents Chief Constables or officers deciding to help out, as long as they are aware they are not obligated and managing the potential to stigmatise the patient.
- Service users often remark about inappropriate reliance upon and involvement of the police.
- If you wish to agree to do so, then request the relevant information / intelligence checks, get resources and crack on.
- YES – Is the RAVE risk from the patient to be assessed?
- NO – it may be possible to obtain a warrant but it is almost certainly not necessary because you and the AMHP have legal powers to achieve a safe assessment.
- Do your information and intelligence checks, risk assess it to determine appropriate resources, read section 115 & section 129 MHA in light of s3 Criminal Law Act and crack on.
- Ensure that the AMHP is aware of ‘the legal caveat’ and that until an offence or a breach of the peace is anticipated, it is their assessment to control and lead.
- YES – you should ask the AMHP to secure a warrant under s135(1) on the grounds that the criteria for getting this warrant appear to be met and the existence of a warrant would significantly assist the police to safely, proactively mitigate those risks which the AMHP themselves identifies as likely.
- Document the response to this request and if it is obtained, refer to ‘Is there a warrant‘, above.
- If it is not obtained, refer to the bullet points in ‘If there is no warrant‘ above.
Why are the grounds met?
I have blogged previously about the grounds for getting a warrant, the powers it affords to the police and the things which the police cannot prevent in a private dwelling if there is no warrant.
Where an AMHP is telling you that a person will be resistant, aggressive or violent in the face of a conversation with professionals or will just leave the premises or seek to escape, it would be fair to describe the person as “being kept otherwise than under proper control.” I hate this terminology, if I’m honest. It is appallingly outdated, offensive, patronising etc., but it is currently the language of the Mental Health Act. Moreover, if such reactions are likely from patients because they have not been taking prescribed medication or adequately caring for themselves, they will be able to be described as “neglected” even if that is self-neglect.
As such, grounds for applying for the warrant are met. Suggestions that warrants cannot be obtained if access to the premises is already possible should be rejected as inaccurate in my view. Reasons why are in that previous blog post.
Not all AMHPs will agree with the above – this is fine. We are allowed to have our opinion and this position is based upon NPIA Guidance endorsed by the Department of Health.