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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Police and removing someone to a 'place of safety'

There are occasions when the police may act if they think that someone is in need of immediate care or control. They have the power to remove someone to a 'place of safety' for their own protection, or the protection of others.

Removing someone to a place of safety

Part of the Mental Health Act 1983 (section 136) details removing a mentally ill person from a public place to a place of safety. It details police powers and the rights of someone in this position.

The police, health authority and social services authority should agree a local policy for putting into practice section 136 of the Act. For example, police officers should know who to contact at the local hospital and social services department.

Place of safety

A place of safety could be a hospital or a police station. A police station should only be used in exceptional circumstances, such as a serious threat of violence or danger to people providing care or support. A person may be transferred from one place of safety to another before assessment.

Taking someone to a place of safety will allow that person to be assessed by a doctor and interviewed by an approved mental health professional.

Approved mental health professionals are specially trained in both mental health and the law relating to it. They are appointed by local authorities to interview people and assess their well-being.

The maximum time someone can be detained is 72 hours (three days). By then, any necessary arrangements for the person's treatment and care should have been made.

Rights of the person detained

If the police remove someone under section 136 of the Act to a police station, the person being removed is entitled to:

  • have a person of their choice informed of their whereabouts
  • access to legal advice
  • medical treatment from an appropriate healthcare professional if required

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