The Policing and Crime Act 2017 will enact changes to police powers under section 135 and section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended) which will come into force on 11 December 2017.
Chapter 4 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (sections 81 to 84) makes the most significant changes to the Mental Health Act 1983 since the Care Act 2014 came into force.
Firstly, the period of detention for patients detained under section 135 and section 136 has been reduced from 72 hours to 24 hours. Medical practitioners may be able to extend this period by 12 hours if necessary but this is still only a total of 36 hours in comparison with the previous period of detention.
The second change was to clarify the phrase ‘place of safety’. Specifically, if a person is deemed to be in a place of safety already, such as ‘any house, flat or room where that person, or any other person, is living’, then they should remain there until a bed becomes available in a mental health unit. The same will apply if they are in a care home or an A&E department.
The police must also, where possible, consult a medical practitioner, nurse or Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP) before removing a person to a place of safety.
Finally, a child cannot be removed to a police station as a ‘place of safety’ in any circumstances.
It will be interesting to see what practical effect the changes will have especially in light of funding issues and current practices by police officers. It is unclear at this stage what kind of implications this will have on the police and the mental health services but it is certainly an area which has been under criticism for some years now so it is likely to be welcomed by many. Practitioners will, in this time of change, need to keep a keen eye on what steps have been taken by officers when detaining persons under sections 135 and 136 to ensure that rights are not being infringed.
Hannah Sweeney, Solicitor
Posted on Tuesday, 25th April 2017