Around nine months ago I started writing a series of BLOG posts, in the three-month build up to the introduction of the amendments to the Mental Health Act 1983, contained within the Policing and Crime Act 2017. The original idea was that the changes would kick in during May 2017 but you may remember a snap General Election got in the way of that and an outcome that probably wasnâ€™t the expected outcome got in the way of a suggestion that the commencement order â€“ a necessary Parliamentary process to bring the changes in to effect â€“ might get concluded before the Summer recess for MPs. Parliament only reconvened in early September and weâ€™ve already broken again for the political party conference season, so itâ€™s now going to be October before the order can be introduced to the Commons. The jokes have started on social media about whether this will emerge during 2017!
So, despite everything and way more than half a year down the line from the posts, we are still in a position where we probably have three months to go until the changes take effect! If you are an frontline police officer, thisÂ operational summaryÂ is aimed directly at you. Twelve bullet points that put the amendments in a shortened form, with links to the fuller posts. Might I recommend you click the link from a smartphone, save the page and bury it somewhere at the back of your phone for reference when this stuff takes effect?! The full posts Iâ€™m referring to, written earlier this year are here â€“
Finally, if you want to read the new laws for yourself, there are three further posts, one each for the three sections of the MHA which will be amended soon â€“
Certain things have emerged as myths over the Summer and forces have been contacting the College me to seek clarification as theyâ€™ve continued work to prepare for this. Â A short list of the main ones I can recall, just to shoot them down in flames in case theyâ€™ve taken hold or risk doing so! â€“
Finally, over the coming weeks, I will try to add a couple of posts which are half-baking in my head after conversations over the Summer about unintended consequences. I suspect not everywhere will be fully prepared, notwithstanding the extra time this delay has afforded; and I also think it will be quite lawful to act in ways that werenâ€™t necessary considered as these laws were progressing through Parliament and granted Assent. The major one will be around police custody, I suspect. It will be lawful to use s136 in police custody and I see this having two impacts: pre-release risk assessment; use after a Force Medical Examiner calls for a statutory assessment in custody, butÂ prior to the MHA assessment being conducted. This latter point is the thing I donâ€™t think has been fully considered yet.
After all that, we now seem to be back at the point where we have three months, but perhaps a bit less, until this stuff will become law. Â Time to think again about whether weâ€™re ready and for individual front line staff to get their heads around their version of the obligations that will follow and how we will handle the problems that are bound to emerge in due course.
Winner of the Presidentâ€™s Medal from
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award.