Practical Advice For Police Officers – s135(1)?

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.
  • YESIs 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.

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18 thoughts on “Practical Advice For Police Officers – s135(1)?

  1. It’s the same as Police Protection. Soc Services CANNOT order police to do it; senior officers who haven’t attended the address CANNOT order PP to be taken out. It’s the officer on the scene who has to believe that the criteria is met. It’s amazing how many unlawful PPs are taken out.

    1. Don’t disagree: but with the blog content in mind, the police cannot ORDER Social Services to get a warrant under s135(1). Nor should they, in my view, refuse to attend unless a warrant is in force if the AMHP is able to evidence that there are raised risks involved.

      What the police absolutely should do, is feel entitlted to ask for a warrant if they (the police) genuinely believe that grounds for securing one are met and that the existence of a warrant would enhance their ability to ensure safety without waiting for offences and danger to materialize. Should the AMHP refuse to get one, or try and fail; everyone just needs to understand the rules of the assessment when it occurs. These are in ‘the legal caveat’, above.

      We need to think about bit more about what we’re asking each other to do and the implications of it.

  2. I’ve been quite liucky in that the 135 warrants I’ve assisted on have been very well planned. The problem at the moments is our force have decided that should there be an issue with MH inside a house (thretening suicide for example but no injuries) then we should seek a 135 warrant. Having spoke with both Divisional and Force MH points of contact it became clear that nobody know how to go about getting one out of hours. So I rang social services to see if they knew and they advised I “arrest them for breach of the peace then 136 them outside”. So with nobody having any idea how to resolve the issue I’m left to come up with my own policy (as there isnt one) and all whilst dealing with a suicidal person at 4am on a sunday morning.

      1. As far as I know it’ll work like this:
        I call Social Services and tell them what’s happening, they go and get the warrant from out of hours Mags and turn up with MH worker to do an assessment. Seems straight forward but….
        Takes average of 60 mins for phone to be picked up by SS out of hours. There’s usually a minimum of 4 hour wait to get SS to turn out, none of them know how to get an put of hours warrant so we’ll have to organise it. They then have to all attend at the same time to make an assessment.

        Bearing in mind they probably won’t go and get a warrant based just on my account by telephone the chances of them turning out to get one a slim at best. A conservative estimate would be 6-8 hours more likely longer for the whole prosses (not including organising a bed).

        Add to this the fact that our A&E let suicidal people walk out on a daily basis then this is going to tie up way too many officers.

        Any suggestions?

  3. Contacted local police at 12.41pm today to request police presence at 9am tomorrow morning to execute S135 warrant. Advised that Public Services Desk would contact me back to formalise. 4.20pm – still no response. Contacted Police again. Politely requested call back as soon as possible, as had arranged all other professionals and about to go off duty. Response was I would get a call by 6.30pm. Had to leave work mobile on whilst off duty. 6.50pm arrived – no call. Contacted Police again – again apologised. Expressed my concerns regarding the delay and relayed the importance of speaking to someone (vulnerable client in community). 7.20pm – still no call so contacted local police again. Operator was very nice, and agreed to contact the Public Service Desk. 10 mins later, call received from a PC. Again discussed the situation. Agreed to contact the Sargent and call me back. 20 mins later, call back from PC, who advised he was unable to contact Sargent, however, advised me to call 999 if Police do not attend. Explained that this was not an appropriate course of action, as there would be no MHA assessment without the police, and it is a waste of public sector resources if they are not going to attend due to all the other professionals that are planning to be there. After further discussion, I now have to contact the Duty Sargent at 7am in the morning (not on duty til 9am) to request Police assistance, although there is no guarantees. During both conversations, it was relayed to me that it was “short notice” to be arranging Police assistance. I agreed with him on this, however, stated that it would not have been short notice if my initial call had been acknowledged, and acted on.

    It appears that the intial call was not recorded accurately, which did not help my hope of a response!

    Sorry, didn’t really mean to witter on – it’s been a long day. Just really wanted to point out that there are frustrations on both sides with access to services.

    Great blog BTW. 🙂

    1. I’ve always acknowledged that there are and this story is all too common … no complaints from me about there or for raising it. That’s why I did a public blog, not a police-intranet thing: I want to get a debate going and many of my posts are wholly or partly critical of the police. There’s no excuse for police not being able to arrange them selves with about 20hrs notice. No excuse whatsoever.

      I will do a blog about this story, as it’s a frequent problem.

  4. This is such a difficult area of business for all the agencies; the reason is that there is no guarantee that you can “book” an emergency service unless you have an emergency! Police and ambulance will always have to prioritise the commitments that come in at the time. You may give loads of notice and that is great, but if a more urgent commitment comes in spontaneously then Police will have to consider which to attend. That being said, there is never an excuse not to keep the agencies informed about what is happening. In my force I can honestly say that the key to success has been to build really strong working partnerships and providing joint training for all staff. This has the dual benefit of ensuring people understand legislation and joint working protocols and also allows teams to understand each other’s priorities and considerations. Mike, I love the “RAVE” acronym and will of course unashamedly plagiarise all your advice

  5. I’ve been reading your blog and following you for a while. I found your interpretation of 135(1) slightly baffling at first as we are taught (somewhat narrow mindedly) that 135(1) is only to gain access. I’m totally behind your way of thinking though and am spreading the word. I think amph’s see “no warrant” as least restrictive but arguments could be made to support the opposite.
    I really appreciate reading the other side of the coin as police are sometimes seen by us as obstructive and unhelpful during a time of heightened stress and possible danger. Having said that whenever I’ve worked with police officers they are usually very supportive once on the scene.

  6. Alistair – the other thing to remember is that just because you have a warrant does not mean it has to be executed. You have decided that the risk assessment indicates that a warrant is the safe way to go but having arrived you find that there is no problem with access to the premises nor in conducting the assessment – don’t use the warrant. If the situation were to deteriorate then the warrant is in your pocket allowing the police to remove the person to a place of safety for completion of the assessment as necessary. This would satisfy the least restrictive issue.
    I am also perfectly satisfied with police refusing to attend an assessment if there are no good reasons for us being there. what sometimes happens is that police are requested to attend in order that there is a means of transporting the person to hand once a decision to detain has been made. In my force we simply will not do this unless the risk indicates that police transport is the only safe means. I expect a private ambulance to have been booked if the NHS ambulance service are unable to assist in a timely way.

    1. To be honest a private ambulance has never been an option in my authority but I would never call police to use as a taxi. That’s taking the mick.
      In regards to not using the warrant that’s true I agree but when I mentioned using 135(1) as we’ve discussed today to a senior manager she had a fit quoting the £200 we have to pay for a warrant. If thats true it’s gone up hugely as last time I used one (3 years or so ago) it cost me £8

      1. Private ambulances were never an option in many of the authority areas in my force area before – howerer when faced with no alternative what do you do? What needs to happen is for the ambulance service to be commissioned properly to allow them to provide the service required by the MHA CoP. We are working with our SHA and commissioner to try and get this sorted out. I am pretty sure the warrants do not cost £200 unless your courts are ripping you off!!

  7. £35 a warrant within Greater Manchester I’ve been informed. But I’ve been led to believe that payment has to be made (centrally?) at the time rather than invoices being sent. This causes practical problems for AMHPs and probably more reluctance to obtain them. We are regionally engaging with the ambulance service to agree on transport protocols to ensure that the ambulance service can be the first point of call as police are still all too often expected to convey.

    1. Echo that: some areas find that by working with courts they uncover misunderstandings amongst legal clerks and Magistrates about s135(1) warrants – you CAN apply for them even though the AMHP knows they can get in; and also s135(2) warrants – the police CAN apply for these and execute them alone, if need be.

      Worth exploring.

  8. On a positive note, just to say Derby police were truly fantastic during execution of a warrant obtained by AMHP, their presence was invaluable and we were able to get the patient to hospital safely. They built up an excellent rapport with the patient and were clearly mindful of his needs. I think the dilemma lies in the uneasy balance between careful planning and co-ordination between multi-disciplinary professionals against urgency and risk to patient (in this case a risk history and neglect in terms of medication/deterioration and refusing support).

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