Mental Health Act 1983: Criteria for detention

Dr Tim Branton, Dr Guy Brookes and Dr Nick Brindle

90 minutes


April 2023

Learning module

CPD domain:
Clinical, Professional

Mental Health Act Criteria.jpg

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 (ECHR). There are a number of Articles of major relevance to clinical practice but Article 5, the right to liberty and security of person, is the right that most directly affects the drafting and application of mental health law. Article 5 is a limited right in that there are specific explicit circumstances defined in the Article when it does not apply:

'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, by exploring:

1. Definition of mental disorder.
2. Nature or degree.
3. Aspects of risk.
4. Medical treatment – available and appropriate.
5. Warranting detention in hospital.


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