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Mental Health Information Briefings

The purpose of the briefing is to assist good practice amongst professionals to comply with the law when completing prescribed detention files, in order to ensure that patients’ rights on admission and renewals are not unlawfully breached.

This briefing considers the interpretation of the statutory phrase 'substantial likelihood’, which is found in the detention clauses of the Mental Health (NI) order 1986. It argues that in the majority of detention cases, the correct interpretation remains ‘a real probability’ of serious physical harm; as per the decision in JR45.

The Court of Appeal case of R v Hackett, which suggested that the threshold may be lowered to ‘a real possibility’, only applies to cases which are at the upper end of the spectrum, where the anticipated physical injury is very serious or life threatening.

This new Law Centre briefing considers the implications of a Court of Appeal decision on the legal requirements for re-detaining patients for assessment and for treatment.

In particular, the briefing addresses:

- the criteria that should be followed in re-detaining a patient who was discharged following a Mental Health Review Tribunal decision;
- how much information needs to be included in the prescribed forms.

This briefing is aimed at mental health legal advisers and Health Trusts.

It describes the legal duties arising from the High Court case in SC’s Application [2015] NIQB 34, which clarifies the right of patients and their legal advisers to access information on the written reasons why a patient is detained for psychiatric treatment.

It also illustrates the pivotal role of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – the right to liberty and security of person - in cases involving the detention of patients.

The Law Centre (NI) identified that one of the procedures followed in the treatment of detained patients without their consent may be in breach of their human rights.

We took this up with the Department of Health (DHSSPS) who agreed to change how the second opinion doctor should be appointed.

As a direct result of the Law Centre’s intervention, all detained patients now benefit from a more robust system of consent to treatment safeguards.



  • The implications of JR47 a Law Centre (NI) briefing on the wider implication of JR47 in the field of health and social care law -  May 2013

This briefing outlines the key points of a high court judgement on the resettlement of long term patients of Muckamore hospital and its broader implications in the field of health and social care law.


  • Your legal rights in hospital is a leaflet for patients detained under the Mental Health (NI) Order 1986 - the leaflet is not for voluntary patients.


Information on policy issues, including developments in Mental Capacity Legislation, can be found here: Policy Briefings - Health and Social Care





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