Summary of types of detention

The various detaining sections can be classified, for ease of explanation, into various types. The following show some of the more common sections.

Civil and criminal; unrestricted and restricted

The following is the most common way of categorising the various sections.

  • Patients can be detained under the civil sections by mental health professionals, each section having its own rules as to the type and number of professionals required, and the procedure to be followed. They are to be found in Part 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • Criminal sections are either based on a court decision or a transfer from prison to psychiatric hospital. They are to be found in Part 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • The Crown Court can impose restrictions when imposing a criminal section; similar restrictions can be imposed on patients who have been transferred from prison. In practice, the main restrictions are that the Responsible Clinician must obtain the Ministry of Justice’s permission for granting leave of absence from hospital, for transfer or for discharge (however, the Mental Health Tribunal can still discharge).

In the table below, the common sections are in bold text.

Civil Criminal
Unrestricted Restricted
2, 3, 4, 5(2), 5(4)

Also: CTO, guardianship

35, 36, 37, 38, 43, 44, 45A, 47, 51 37/41, 45A, 47/49, 48/49

Route to detention

Another similar way to separate out the various detentions is whether they begin in the community, at court or in prison.

Community Court Prison
2, 3, 4, 135, 136

Hospital: 5(2), 5(4)

Also: CTO, guardianship

35, 36, 37, 37/41, 38, 43, 44, 45A, 51 47, 47/49


The short-term sections last for a maximum of 72 hours (s4 and s5(2)) or for some other, shorter maximum period (s5(4), s135, s136). The medium-term assessment section (s2) lasts for a maximum of 28 days; the duration of the others depends on the duration of the on-going criminal trial process. The long-term sections last indefinitely, subject to (for unrestricted sections) a periodic renewal process.

Short term/emergency Medium term Long term
4, 5(2), 5(4), 135, 136 2, 35, 36, 38, 43, 44, 48/49 3, 37, 37/41, 45A, 47, 47/49

Also: CTO, guardianship

Informal or formal

Patients who agree, under s131, to remain in hospital are "informal" or "voluntary" patients, as they are not subject to the formal regime of the MHA.


What links here:

  • No pages link to this page