The Mental Health Act 1983: Criteria for detention

by Dr Tim Branton, Dr Guy Brookes and Dr Nick Brindle


Published: March 2012


The Mental Health Act 1983 provides for the compulsory admission and treatment of persons with mental disorder. Underpinning all legislation in the UK relating to detention is the European Convention on Human Rights. The Article 5 right to liberty and security of person is the right that most directly affects the drafting and application of mental health law:


5.1 Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law: …(e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants.


Convention rights have been incorporated into domestic law by the Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998. The HRA 1998 enables people to have cases involving possible breaches of their human rights heard in a UK court. It places a duty on public authorities to act in accordance with the Convention and obliges judges to interpret the law in line with the Convention.


This module deals with the criteria and definitions for detention provided by the Mental Health Act 1983.


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Please note: This module was last updated in 2012. A revision is being worked on, but in the meantime please be aware when completing the module that some of the guidance may have changed.

If you like this module, you may also be interested in:


The Mental Health Act 1983: Safeguards (England) by Dr Guy Brookes, Dr Tim Branton and Dr Nick Brindle


Community treatment orders by Dr Guy Brookes, Dr Nick Brindle and Dr Tim Branton


Mental health and tribunal law: Part 1 – an introduction by Dr Sanjay Khurmi



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