Quick Guide (Scotland) – AWOLs

  • This quick guide is an attempt to “operationalise” some complex issues but you should refer to your own force policy and your supervisors for specific local requirements.
  • Reporting missing persons to the police is discretionary to the mental health trust.
  • In practice, patients who are dangerous, especially vulnerable and subject to criminal proceedings will always be reported to the police
  • Detained MH patients – there is a power to redetain under s301 MH(C&T)(S)A
  • Voluntary / Informal patients – there is no power to redetain. They must be assessed afresh under the Act.
  • If the whereabouts of the patient are known to the MH trust from which they are missing, it is the duty of the MH trust to repatriate them or go to assess them.
  • It is the responsibility of the NHS to ensure conveyance arrangements to do this.
  • If support is sought from the police, this should be because there are RAVE risks and it is the role of the police to support, not replace the NHS.
  • There is no power to hold people in police cells after detaining someone who has absconded under the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act.
  • It is the legal duty to return the patient to the hospital from which they are missing or to which they have been recalled.
  • Bed management issues arising from the re-detention are then a matter for the NHS, through their contigency arrangements and duty managers, if needed.
  • These should be sorted out at the hospital concerned, with ongoing police support if there are RAVE risks.
  • The power of detention under s303 MH(C&T)(S)A does not have a power of entry attached.
  • If entry needs to be forced in order to exercise it, a warrant under s292 is required.
  • Police officers may apply on their own for a s292 warrant, if they need to.
  • It would be better if the application and / or execution of the warrant were accompanied by a mental health professional.

I want to place on record my thanks to Sgt Andy WILSON and PC Fiona WILSON from Police Scotland for proof reading these posts on Scottish mental health law and offering suggestions that translate my English efforts over the border. #teamtayside

The Mental Health Cop blog

Badgewon the ConnectedCOPS ‘Top Cop’ Award for leveraging social media in policing.
won the Digital Media Award from the UK’s leading mental health charity, Mind
– won a World of Mentalists #TWIMAward for the best in mental health blogs

ccawards2013 was highlighted by the Independent Commission on Policing & Mental Health
– was referenced in the UK Parliamentary debate on Policing & Mental Health
was commended by the Home Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament.



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