Are you a front-line police officer? What is it you need to know about policing and mental health without having to look it up?
I would argue that it is not that very much at all – here are 500 words to summarise the important operational parts of this whole blog – with links to more comprehensive explanations and other material. And don’t forget the Quick Guides which are individual guides, with legal references to the situations below which I’ve reduced to their absolute minimum.
- Section 136 MHA cannot be used in private dwellings
- Once it is used, call an ambulance to every arrest – RED FLAGS to A&E – No RED FLAGS to psych PoS: when all else fails and you can’t improvise around it, police station only as a last resort.
- Anywhere can be a place of safety, if they temporarily agree to receive the person detained. Just make sure you’re certain of why you’re acting, against the decision-making model.
- Attendance only if there are demonstrated RAVE risks – request a warrant if it the risks come from the patient to be assessed; attend whether a warrant is forthcoming or not.
- Consider PoS Detentions (above) if it is decided to remove to a Place of Safety and Conveyance of Patients (below) if removed from the address to a PoS or following ‘sectioning’.
- You have no power of detention under the MHA at all.
- You can arrest for an attempted / substantive offence or for a Breach of the Peace if there is fear of “an immiment risk of violence.”
- Can an ambulance to support you, if you are dealing with a serious healthcare situation.
- You may need to refer the matter for NHS or other 24/7 services such as a GP, mental health team or AMHP service.
- Request a non-police conveyance for all transportation or transfers, unless urgency or risk / violence prevents this being realistic.
- If police conveyance is used for those reasons – ensure clinical supervision from a paramedic, nurse or doctor (depending on the clinical issues.)
- Sedated patients should be nurse / doctor.
- If at any stage there are RED FLAGS during conveyance, divert to the nearest A&E.
- No power to do anything except detain s136 if you find an informal / voluntary MH patient.
- A power of re-detention under s18 if the patient is formally declared AWOL under the MHA
- No power of entry to detain AWOL patients under s18 – you need a warrant under s135(2) which you can obtain yourself or with involvement of MH services.
- Gather the evidence as normal (witnesses, CCTV, etc.)
- Request as much background information on MH as possible in circumstances.
- Assume a diversionary approach to low-level offending; assume a prosecution approach to serious offences;
- Nothing prevents arrest / prosecution where this is necessary because of threat and risk.
- Prosecution sometimes is necessary to ensure Part III of the MHA is used to manage threats and risks.
- Capacity is NOT a concept in criminal law: whether a patient ‘has capacity’ is not the crucial question.
National Decision Making Model
- Where doubt prevails, or amidst conflicting advice – weigh up the legal options, with the relevant policies and procedures with the need to prevent crime, bring offenders to justice, protect life / property and maintain the Queen’s Peace.
- Decisions will be defendable if they are taken in good faith, with these intentions in mind.
- Don’t assume that trying to do the right thing is a waste of time because you anticipate some resistance, either from individual professionals or the agencies they work for – attempting to the right thing before settling for the least worst option might be thing that makes actions legally defendable, especially following any serious untoward event.
The last thing you need to know, is where to find the answers to the stuff you don’t know – that’s why you should bookmark the blog or save a link on the home page of your smart phone. The Quick Guides and the FAQs might the first reference tools; but don’t forget the full index of over 450 articles on different aspects and the search facility on the top right hand corner of the main blog page.
Winner of the President’s Medal,
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award
All views expressed are my own – they do not represent the views of any organisation.
(c) Michael Brown, 2012
I try to keep this blog up to date, but inevitably over time, amendments to the law as well as court rulings and other findings from inquests and complaints processes mean it is difficult to ensure all the articles and pages remain current. Please ensure you check all legal issues in particular and take appropriate professional advice where necessary.
Government legislation website – www.legislation.gov.uk