Mental Health Act changes
Important changes to section 135 and 136 of the Mental Health
Act, made by the Policing and Crime Act 2017, come into force on 11
The changes to the police powers and places of safety provisions
have already be set out. Briefly they are as follows:
Section 136 powers may be exercised anywhere other than in a
It’s 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 only be used as a place of safety for
adults in specific circumstances, which are set out in
The previous maximum detention period of up to 72 hours will be
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 a health professional;
Where a section 135 warrant has been executed, a person may be
kept at their home for the purposes of an assessment rather than
being removed to another place of safety (in line with what is
already possible under section 136);
A new search power will allow police officers to search persons
subject to section 135 or 136 powers for protective purposes.
The Department of Health and Home Office have published guidance
to support the implementation of changes.
The guidance isn’t statutory, and should be used in conjunction
with other relevant guidance, standards and Codes of Practice but
noting that the current MHA Code of Practice will certainly be
updated at some point to incorporate guidance in relation to the
places of safety provisions.
The guidance addresses how the legislative changes may apply
over the time course of a typical ‘engagement’ and also makes
suggestions regarding additional steps that may be considered when
implementing changes in a locality.
These include reviewing existing training courses; impact
monitoring and revision of local policies and liaison with relevant
It’s important that clinicians are aware of the changes and the
time limits that will apply.
Agencies need to be very clear about how the provisions apply
and anticipate the challenges that will happen in their area.