Police Matters and Section 136 of the Mental Health Act
Police Liaison Officers
Police forces in Wales have the following Mental Health Liaison Officers who can be contacted for information and advice:
North Wales Police
Central Divisional HQ
St Asaph Business Park
Telephone: 01745 588491
Carmarthenshire Divisional H.Q.
Public Protection Department
Telephone: 01267 222020 Extn. 546
South Wales Police
Public Protection Department
Telephone: 01656 655555
1-3 Cardiff Road
Telephone: 01633 247804
Section 136 of the Mental Health Act
There are occasions when the Police may act if they believe that someone is suffering from a mental illness and is in need of immediate treatment or care. Their powers for such occasions are set out in Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. This gives them the authority to take a person from a public place to a “Place of Safety”, either for their own protection or for the protection of others, so that their immediate needs can be properly assessed.
A Place of Safety could be a hospital, police station or some other designated place. However, the most recent guidance states that a police station should be used only in exceptional circumstances, and all areas in Wales are working to ensure Places of Safety are available in appropriate settings, usually in hospitals.
At the Place of Safety, the person will be examined by a doctor and interviewed by an Approved Mental Health Professional (known as an AMHP), who should carefully check if they are suffering from a mental illness, and whether they should be in hospital, or need further help and treatment at home. The doctor and AMHP will usually see the person together. The Doctor could be a police doctor or a psychiatrist. The AMHP will usually be a Social Worker, but could also be a specialist nurse or other mental health worker.
A person can be held in a Place of Safety for a maximum of 72 hours. However, the guidance for professionals states that a person should only be held for as long as necessary for the assessments to be undertaken. A person can be moved from one Place of Safety to another (within the 72 hours) as long as this is in their best interests.
In a Place of Safety, professionals have a duty to respect a person’s human rights. This means they should be treated humanely, with sensitivity, and with dignity. The person is also entitled to:
· have a person of their choice informed of their whereabouts
· be kept informed as to what is happening to them
· access to independent legal advice
· the support of an appropriate adult
· reasonable refreshments, whether drinks or food.
The police do have the authority to search a person and to take away any items which could be used to harm anyone. They can do this before taking the person to the Place of Safety and also in the Place of Safety. They must list anything they take away and, at the end, give back any items that are not dangerous.
Section 136 is simply to give space and time for assessments to be made, and doctors and nurses have no authority to treat a person against their will. However, a person should be offered essential treatment, perhaps at Accident or Emergency, if this is necessary. Without the person’s consent treatment can only be given in exceptional, life threatening situations in line with Article 5 of the Human Rights Act.
Each local area must have written guidance, agreed between the police, health services and social services, for putting Section 136 into practice. The public have the right to see this guidance.
The information here is taken from:
- the Mental Health Act 1983, as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007
- the Mental Health Act Code of Practice for Wales 2008.
All the major documents relating to the Mental Health Act and the Code of Practice, including information leaflets, are available on th Health of Wales Information Service (HOWIS) website which can be accessed by this link: