When can you be detained under the Mental Health Act?


In order to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) you must have a mental disorder and the court must order your detention. Legal advice from a solicitor can clarify what is meant by a mental disorder under the Act.

The MHA defines three types of mental disorder:

  • The first is severe mental impairment. This is a state of arrested or incomplete development of the mind, which is responsible for the severe impairment of intelligence and social functioning. It is associated with abnormally aggressive or irresponsible behaviour on behalf of the person concerned
  • The second type of mental disorder is mental impairment. This type of mental disorder has the same characteristics as severe mental impairment, but to a lesser extent. Solicitors can advise how these types of mental impairment could impact on any case the person becomes involved in as either a victim or a witness. Civil and criminal law solicitors can advise in these areas
  • The third type of mental disorder under the MHA is a psychopathic disorder. This is classified as a persistent disorder or disability of mind which results in abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible behaviour by the person concerned

A person also can be detained under the MHA if they have a mental illness. Mental illness is not defined in the MHA but the courts include arrested or incomplete development, psychopathic disorders or any other disorders of the mind as mental illnesses. For example, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and bi-polar disorder are mental illnesses.

Medical opinion

In addition to the requirement to have a mental disorder or illness, the person must be also considered a threat to their own health and safety or the safety of others, in order for the court to order their detention. This opinion must be given in writing by two registered medical practitioners in the application for assessment and treatment.

The medical practitioners must have seen the person within five days of each other when an application is made under sections 2 and 3 of the MHA. If an application is made under section 4, the medical practitioners must have seen the person within the last 24 hours. A person can also be detained for 72 hours under section 5 of the MHA if they are already in a hospital as a voluntary patient but a doctor or nurse believes they should be prevented from leaving. A solicitor should be contacted in these cases to ensure the best interests of the patient are protected at all times.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on a person's rights during detention under the Mental Health Act, Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist family solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local family solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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