Review of operation of Mental Health Act Sections 135 and 136

In December 2014, the Department of Health published its review of the operation of Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

The report comes following CQC’s review of health-based places of safety earlier last year that police cells in England are being used because of a lack of health-based places of safety provision, or because people are being unnecessarily excluded from health-based places of safety.

Section 135 of the Act gives police officers powers to enter private premises – with a warrant – to remove a person suspected of being in urgent need of a mental health assessment. Section 136 gives them powers to remove someone from a public place to a ‘place of safety’, where they can be detained for up to 72 hours, pending a mental health assessment.

Changes proposed by the report

The review highlights areas where the use of these sections of the Act is working well, as well as areas that could be improved. Changes proposed by the report include:

  • Outlawing the use of police custody as a place of safety for people under 18 who are detained under the Act.
  • Extending the use of Section 136 to anywhere apart from a person’s home (for example, a railway station).
  • Shortening the length of time a person can be detained under sections 135 and 136.

It also includes proposals for changing the use of the Act, including improved commissioning of places of safety and faster arrangements for the use of Section 135.

CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals and lead for mental health, Dr Paul Lelliott, said: “The joint Home Office and Department of Health review of the use of Section 135 and 136 detention under the Mental Health Act is an excellent piece of work. We were pleased to see that the recommendations made in the report build on those that we made in our report, A safer place to be, earlier this year – and also welcome the call for legislative change designed to end the unacceptable practice of children and young people ending up in a police cell when they experience a crisis.”

The Centre for Mental Health has also published a report, commissioned by the Department of Health and the Home Office, as part of the Government’s review of police powers under Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act in England and Wales. The centre’s report explores people’s experiences of the two sections and their views about how they should be changed. Its conclusions call for changes to the use of police powers under the Act.

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