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Guidance for the implementation of changes to police powers and places of safety provisions in the mental health act 1983


1.1 This guidance has been produced to support the implementation of changes to the police powers and places of safety provisions in the Mental Health Act 1983 (“the 1983 Act”) made by the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (“the 2017 Act”). These changes primarily relate to police powers to act in respect of people experiencing a mental health crisis for the purposes of ensuring their care and safety.

1.2 The main legislative changes are:
• amendments to sections 135, 136 and 138;
• insertion of new sections 136A, 136B and 136C;
• making of new regulations: The Mental Health Act 1983 (Places of Safety) Regulations 2017

1.3 These changes come into force on 11 December 2017. The changes will not apply to cases in train at the start of 11 December 2017 (see Annex).

Status of the guidance

1.4 This guidance is not statutory. It is intended to provide assistance to relevant organisations and professionals in identifying and understanding the implications of the various changes. Since the 1983 Act applies to England and Wales, this guidance is also relevant in both countries. This guidance should be used in conjunction with other relevant guidance and standards, a number of which are listed in Chapter 6.

1.5 Both England and Wales have existing statutory Codes of Practice in relation to the 1983 Act. These statutory Codes of Practice remain in force and healthcare
professionals must continue to have regard to the Codes in the exercise of their functions under the 1983 Act (although where there has been a subsequent change in the legislation, this may be a good reason to depart from what is set out in the Code). It is intended that both Codes will be amended to reflect the legislative changes and to incorporate relevant information from this guidance when they are next due for review. Revisions will be subject to the normal consultation processes.

Purpose and content of the guidance

1.6 A person experiencing a mental health crisis should receive the best possible care at the earliest possible point. The legal changes introduced by the 2017 Act are intended to improve immediate service responses to people who need urgent help with their mental health in cases where police officers are the first to respond.

1.7 The impact of the changes and the implementation action required may vary depending on current local arrangements or circumstances. For example, in localities
where there has previously been a significant reliance on use of police stations as places of safety, the urgent identification of suitable alternatives will clearly be
important. This guidance is not intended to dictate local partnership arrangements, which will have developed over time and in accordance with local needs, but to highlight issues that may need consideration when reviewing those arrangements. Proactive joint working, as driven by local Crisis Care Concordat groups across both England and Wales, will remain key to successful implementation of the legislative changes.

1.8 The main changes to the police powers and places of safety provisions can be summarised as:

• section 136 powers may now be exercised anywhere other than in a private dwelling;
• it is now unlawful to use a police station as a place of safety for anyone under the age of 18 in any circumstances;
• a police station can now only be used as a place of safety for adults in specific circumstances, which are set out in regulations ;
• the previous maximum detention period of up to 72 hours has been reduced. to 24 hours (unless a doctor certifies that an extension of up to 12 hours is necessary);
• before exercising a section 136 power police officers must, where practicable, consult one of the health professionals listed in section 136(1C), or in regulations made under that provision;
• a person subject to section 135 or 136 can be kept at, as well as removed to, a place of safety. Therefore, where a section 135 warrant has been executed, a
person may be kept at their home (if it is a place of safety) for the purposes of an assessment rather than being removed to another place of safety;
• a new search power allows police officers to search persons subject to section 135 or 136 powers for protective purposes.

1.9 This guidance addresses the legislative changes as they might apply chronologically in a typical engagement, rather than in the order they appear in the legislation. It therefore starts with initial interactions between a police officer and a person believed to be suffering from mental disorder, followed by identification of places of safety, procedures to be followed at those places, and suggestions for reviewing and monitoring implementation of the changes. The guidance tries to anticipate and address the most likely issues that may arise from the legislative changes. However, if in doubt in any particular circumstances, professionals within organisations involved in such cases should seek specific legal advice or procedural guidance.

1.10 The organisations with the most direct interest in this guidance are police forces, mental health trusts in England, clinical commissioning groups in England, mental
health services within Local Health Boards in Wales, NHS Wales, local authority social services departments, and ambulance services. It may also be of interest to people who may be subject to the police powers and places of safety provisions, as well as to their families.