Mental Health Act - emergency and short-term powers: guide

A guide for service users and their carers to the Mental Health Act emergency and short-term powers (2008 version).

4 Police power to remove a person to a place of safety

This power applies:

  • If you are in a public place (any place where the public has access) and;
  • A police constable reasonably suspects that you have a mental disorder and;
  • Also suspects that you are in immediate need of care and treatment.

It allows a police constable to take you to a place of safety, and keep you there for up to 24 hours, so that they can arrange for you to be examined by a doctor.

A 'place of safety' means a hospital, a care home or any other suitable place. If there is no place of safety available, then you might be taken to a police station, although this should only be done as a last resort.

If you are taken to a place of safety, then the police constable has to notify the local authority and your nearest relative as soon as possible. If it isn't possible to inform your nearest relative, or your nearest relative doesn't live with you, then the police should notify a person who lives with you, or your carer, or someone who provides a care service to you. The Mental Welfare Commission must also be notified.

The police constable will arrange for you to be examined by a doctor. The doctor might decide that you don't need any medical treatment, or might agree arrangements about your treatment with you. In some cases, he/she might decide to grant an emergency detention certificate ( see here) or a short-term detention certificate ( see here).

Being taken to a place of safety by a police constable doesn't mean that you have done anything wrong; it just means that the police constable is concerned about your welfare and thinks you need to be seen by a doctor.

Back to top