Section 3 - Detention for treatment

To be detained under Section 3 Mental Health 1983 (as amended) (MHA 1983), you must meet the following criteria:-

  1. You must be suffering from a mental disorder of a nature and/or degree which makes it appropriate for you to be liable to be detained in hospital for treatment.
  2. Your detention under Section 3 is necessary in the interests of your own health, safety or for the protection of others.
  3. Appropriate medical treatment is available for you in hospital and you cannot get this treatment without being detained.

An Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) must apply to hospital if it is considered that you meet the legal criteria and need to be detained under Section 3 MHA 1983. Your nearest relative can also apply. An AMHP can only apply if they have seen you in the last 14 days. They also need recommendations from 2 doctors. The doctors must have seen you in the last 14 days and they must not have seen you more than 5 days apart.


If you, or your relative, are detained under Section 3 MHA 1983, you can initially be detained for a period of up to 6 months beginning from the date of your admission to hospital under Section. If it is considered that you continue to meet the criteria for detention under Section 3 towards the end of this initial 6 month period, your Doctor can renew the Section for a further 6 months. If it is considered that you continue to meet the criteria for detention under Section 3 towards the end of the second 6 month period, your doctor can renew your Section for a 1 year period. Your Section then can continue to be renewed annually.


You should be informed of your rights by a member of hospital staff as soon as possible into your admission.  You have the right to:-

  • Information about your section and the reasons for detention.
  • Information about consent to treatment.
  • Information about your rights of appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal.
  • Information about how to contact a suitably qualified solicitor.
  • Information about your right to appeal to the Hospital Managers.
  • Information on how to obtain the help and support of an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA).
  • Information about correspondence and visitors.
  • Information on how to make a complaint.
  • Information about safeguarding.
  • Information about the Care Quality Commission.

Consent to Treatment

Medication can legally be given to you without your consent for the first 3 months of your admission to hospital. After 3 months, staff can only treat you without your consent if a ‘Second Opinion Approved Doctor’ (SOAD) approves the treatment unless it is an emergency. Staff can only give you some treatments, like electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), if certain criteria are met.

Discharge from Section

You can be discharged by:

  1. Your Responsible Clinician (your doctor in the hospital in which you are detained);
  2. The Hospital Managers;
  3. Your Nearest Relative; and
  4. The Tribunal.

Hospital Managers Hearings

You have the right to apply to the Hospital Managers to discharge you from detention. You can do this at any time during your detention.

Tribunal Procedure & Powers

You have one right to appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal during the first 6 months of your detention and once during every period of renewal. For example, if you were detained under Section 3 on 3 January, the last day you could submit an application to the Tribunal would be 2 July. If your Section was renewed, you would have one right of appeal between 3 July and 2 January and if it was renewed further, you would have one right of appeal between 3 January and 2 January of the following year.

Once you have submitted your application to the Tribunal, a Tribunal Hearing should take place within 6-8 weeks of the Tribunal Services receiving your application. Reports will be prepared by your doctor, your social worker/care coordinator and a nurse and these will be made available to you and the Tribunal Panel.

In the Tribunal Hearing, the Tribunal Panel will hear evidence from your doctor, your social worker/care coordinator and a nurse. You will also have the opportunity to provide evidence.

The Tribunal Panel have the power to discharge you from Section immediately, defer your discharge to a future date, recommend that you are transferred to a different hospital, recommend that you are granted Section 17 leave, recommend that your doctor should consider discharging you onto a Community Treatment Order or uphold your Section.

What can Biscoes Solicitors do?

  • Meet with you promptly in hospital to advise you about your Section and your rights, including your right to appeal to the Tribunal to seek discharge from Section/recommendation for transfer to another hospital, the granting of Section 17 leave or for a Community Treatment Order to be considered by your Doctor.
  • Advise you regarding consent to treatment issues.
  • Review your Section papers and assess their legality.
  • Submit an application to the Tribunal on your behalf.
  • Contact your Nearest Relative to advise them of their rights and powers.
  • Contact your treating team to find out their plans for your admission.
  • Attend Care Programme Approach (CPA) meetings and Section 117 aftercare meetings with you or on your behalf.
  • If you have a Learning Disability, we can request Care and Treatment Reviews (CTRs) and attend them with you or on your behalf.
  • Represent you in a Hospital Managers Hearing.
  • Represent you in a Mental Health Tribunal Hearing.

India Jefferson-Grant is the Mental Health Law specialist in our Mental Health and Capacity Department and is a member of the Law Society’s Mental Health Accreditation Scheme having been independently assessed as an expert in Mental Health Law. If you have been detained under Section 3 MHA 1983 and need legal assistance, you can contact India on 02392 660 261 or


For further information or to speak to one of our experts, please get in touch