I’m getting several queries about police powers under the MHA when the venue is a hotel or a hotel room – so we need to talk about the case of R v Rosso (2003). It is a very misunderstood case, because the verdict of the Appeal Court gives the opposite impression to the one you need to walk away with, unless you absorb the full judgment.
So attention to detail is key, here!
Mr ROSSO refused police officers access to a hotel room he was in when they attended with two doctors and an AMHP to assess and detain him under s2 of the Mental Health Act. In the course of the confrontation where he attempted to shut the door on the police, he produced a knife and inflicted a grievous bodily harm injury to one of the officers and was arrested. In court, he argued that as he was in a hotel room, that the police had no more right to enter it than they would have had to enter his home and that he was entitled to deny them access as trespassers without a s135(1) warrant. As such, he was not guilty of assault, he claimed. The Crown Court took a different view and he was found guilty of GBH assault and sentenced to a restricted hospital order under 37/41 of the Mental Health Act.
He appealed against both conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal and it was rejected – the police officers did not need a warrant to enter the hotel room because the hotel managers had given them permission to enter.
This is the bit that everyone remembers and only today, I’ve had the question asked and been told that officers had seen a summary of this case and concluded that they could, therefore, use section 136 of the Mental Health Act in a hotel room. No, you can’t! You ordinarily would need a warrant to enter a hotel room – let me explain:
RIGHT OF EXLUSIVE OCCUPATION
This case is misunderstood because of one important feature, often ignored in the summaries and their interpretation, and it surrounds whether Mr ROSSO had a right of exclusive occupation –
He had paid to stay in the hotel and been placed in Room 3 for the duration of his stay. After a few days, having discovered that the television in his room was not working, hotel staff had agreed to him using the television in Room 9 – purely for the purposes of watching television and for no other purpose. He otherwise remained a guest in Room 3. So the expectation of privacy he would have had in his own room, for which he had paid, was not the same as in the room where they had allowed him on a casual basis to watch television. Were Mr ROSSO to have been found in Room 3 when the various professionals arrived, he would have been under no obligation to open the door and entitled to refuse access to it, unless anything agreed in the hotel’s general terms and conditions dictated otherwise.
This is why the ruling actually means the opposite to what judges are thought to have ruled: they were commenting on this unusual arrangement in which he has borrowed an additional room with consent – most people conclude it was generally applicable to all hotel occupations.
It really wasn’t! —
- You can’t use s136 in a hotel room that has been paid for by a hotel guest;
- You would need a warrant to force entry to the room unless another statutory provision applied.
- It’s important that officers understand the legal relationship a person in a hotel has to the room they are in.
- The rest of the hotel is like any other place – is it somewhere the public can freely access, on invitation or otherwise? Then, s136 is available as an option.
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