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Detention Under Guardianship Section 7 of the Mental Health Act 1983 - The Law and your rights

What Is Guardianship (also known as Section 7)?

This is a section of the Mental Health Act which is used for a very small number of people and gives the guardian (usually the local social services authority) the power to:

  • require the person to reside at a certain place;
  • require the person to attend a certain place for medical treatment, occupation, education or training; or
  • require access to the person by any doctor or other mental health professional.

It is commonly referred to as a “Guardianship Order”.

Who Does It Apply To?

The doctors have to diagnose that the person is suffering from a mental disorder of a nature or degree which warrants their needing to be made subject to a Guardianship Order. They must also say why it is in the interests of the welfare of the patient or for the protection of other persons that the person needs to be under Guardianship. 

How Long Does It Last?

It lasts for up to 6 months and can be renewed for a further 6 months and then annually. 

How Does A Person Come Off A Section 7 Order?

  1. The doctor responsible for the person can discharge them at any time
  2. The person’s Nearest Relative can order their discharge once during the section.
  3. The person is discharged by a Tribunal. This is a more in-depth review of the person’s case carried out by an independent body consisting of a lawyer, psychiatrist and a representative of the public. Reports will be provided by the professionals involved in the person’s detention and we will go through these with the person. At the hearing, the procedure is informal, but the person does have the right to challenge evidence given by the professionals involved in their detention. The Tribunal has the power to discharge a person straight away or adjourn for further information.
  4. If the 6 months run out and the section is not renewed it expires.

Going out

There is no power under the Guardianship Order to require the person to remain in the place of residence. However if mental health professionals think that it is not in the interests of the person or that the safety of others might be at risk then they can have the person returned to the place of residence, by the police if necessary.


A person detained under this section cannot be given medication against their wishes. However, if there is a requirement to attend a certain place for medical treatment they can be taken there. Once there they do not have to take the medication if they do not want to, although this may result in them being taken into hospital under a different section of the Mental Health Act for treatment.

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