PaCA – Operational Officers

This blog is part of the series which will cover, in detail, the amendments to the Mental Health Act 1983 within the Policing and Crime Act 2017.

For background to the series, see the introductory post which outlines why I’m doing this and what other specific issues will be covered concerning laws that will come in to effect in the next few months. Current Home Office estimations of timescales suggest early May – but this is subject to a number of factors and may change.


These are the Mental Health Act amendments, stripped to the absolute bone for ease of digestion by operational police officers.  It may also be a useful summary for service users / carers or other front line professionals, but it’s written for officers who need to read it!

Click on the ‘more detail’ links to take you to the main posts I’ve written on the amendments I’m briefly summarising here! –

  • Section 136 MHA –
  • You can now use s136 in any public or private place, unless it is a “house, flat or room” where someone lives, or any non-communal “yard, garden, garage or outhouse” connected to such a place. Includes workplaces, railway lines, police custody or A&E departments.  More detail.
  • However, you must consult, where practicable, with a DR, nurse or AMHP before utilising s136 – find out from your force who you are expected to ring! Document what they say to you – they cannot instruct you, only advise. Any decision to detain is yours, not theirs.
  • When considering if it is practicable to consult, remember the person is free to walk away until such time as you decide to detain them – have you informed them of this; do they have the capacity to consent to remain pending consultation?
  • Section 136 can only occur if a person is in immediate need of care or control – how immediate is that need if you have time to make phone calls? If you delay making a detention how do you justify later on that there was an immediate need to act?  You must strike a balance!
  • Place of Safety –
  • You cannot, ever, take a child to a police station as a Place of Safety – this means no-one under 18yrs. NB: this is not a ban on using custody; it is a ban on police stations. More detail.
  • An adult can only be detained in a police station in ‘exceptional circumstances’ – this is not defined because the Government haven’t published the statutory Regulations: I’ll update this page as soon as I know what they are!
  • A person can only be detained in a Place of Safety for 24hrs – unless a Doctor authorises an extension up to 36rs. They can only extend things if there was a delaying in undertaking the assessment because of the condition of the person: the DR cannot authorise extension because they’re struggling to find a bed! More detail.
  • Everytime you use this power: call an ambulance, anyone with RED FLAGS to A&E, everyone else should go to whichever PoS is locally identified, unless you can identify another solution – police stations are only for adults only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Searches –
  • Where someone is detained under s136 MHA, they are able to be searched on arrest subject to the criteria of s32 PACE – you can also now search under s136C once you have arrived at a Place of Safety for anything that may be used to cause harm or escape if you have reasonable grounds to believe they possess such a thing.
  • This authority to search is ongoing whilst the person remains detained but each and every search must be justified, on its own terms, especially for any second or subsequent search since being originally detained.
  • You can also now search someone at any point after you have executed a search warrant under s135(1) or s135(2) MHA – the power to do so is s136C(1) – this 135 search authority lasts until the end of detention under s135(1) OR until the person you have detained under s135(2) has arrived back at the place you were taking them.
  • You are authorised to retain possession of anything you find during that search which could be used for causing harm and retain it until the end of the period of assessment. Anything found which is prohibited by an offence can be retained indefinitely after being seized under s19 PACE. More detail.

IMG_0053IMG_0052Winner of the President’s Medal from
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.


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