Covid-19: Changes to Mental Health Act and Guidelines

Legally reviewed by: Tim Lumb In: Covid-19

The Covid-19 crisis has been moving around the globe at speed, and as we embrace a temporary ‘new normal’, there has been a focus on mental health during lockdown. The Mental Health Act has also made temporary changes to account for the virus.

The pandemic covers many elements of Mental Health Law, and also includes elements of Criminal Law.

Cartwright King’s specialist lawyers are experienced and equipped in these areas of law.

Criminal Law

The UK lockdown began to show a decline in mental health relatively early on, which continues to be reported.

The pandemic has brought many challenges to all of us, whether having already been diagnosed with lower level mental health problems, or have never experienced any kind of mental illness.

These external factors can trigger the risk of crossing the line in terms of behaviours expected in society, and the history of Criminal Law is littered with examples of this.

How does the Criminal Justice System manage these most vulnerable members of our society?

The developments in understanding mental health have enabled matters such as these to be dealt with a level of adjustment to the sufferer.

Although committing a criminal act, there is a priority in protecting the rights of a citizen and ensuring that they are not disadvantaged due to their condition.

What do I do if I am in this position due to a temporary mental health issue?

Cartwright King as a firm tries to divert those with mental health conditions away from the Criminal Justice System, and have their case dealt with another way.
There are ways to do this, including aiming to ensure no prosecution takes place, or imposing a restriction or order to allow for rehabilitation and an attempt at wellness rather than punishing.

What do the Crown Prosecution Service / the Police say?

Those charged with investigating and prosecuting crime have also come to understand that issues around mental health and temporary criminal behaviour. Both the CPS and the Police have issued guidelines on how to approach cases.


Crown Prosecution Service

What would a defence lawyer do?

Often though there’s a fine judgement call to be made and this is where the defence lawyer can step in to help. As with all guidelines it is often down to an individual’s own interpretation, and where one police officer or crown prosecutor may take the decision not to charge or prosecute another may take a quite opposite view.

In these cases having an expert on your side can make a huge difference. Whether a case is in the investigation or prosecution stage our experienced criminal law specialists will make strong sensible representations so as to ensure the right result is achieved. Cartwright King has a nationally renowned Mental Health law department who protect their client’s civil rights.

The Mental Health Act and changes due to Covid-19

If detained under the Mental Health Act due to the severity of a mental health issue, there have been some changes made to ensure that cases can continue, and sufferers are not held unnecessarily.

Can I still challenge my detention under the Mental Health Act?

Yes, you can. There is new Practice Direction in place to cover the Covid-19 Pandemic. From 19th March 2020, section 2 and conditional discharge recall cases will be prioritised for listing but you can still apply for a Tribunal if you are eligible and detained under any of the Mental Health Act Sections. Please feel free to contact us here for further advice.

Changes to the way your Mental Health Tribunal will take place

There will for the time being no longer be an option for a Pre-hearing examination with the Tribunal Medical Member.
Hearings from 23rd March will be conducted by telephone, by a single Judge who will have access to speak to a Medical Member and Specialist Lay Member as required during the hearing.

One of our Accredited Mental Health Lawyers can still represent you at your Tribunal hearing (in person if the hospital/unit will allow entry as some are locked down, or if not, by telephone) and you can also attend by telephone. You can still have confidential advice by telephone, from your solicitor separate to the hearing.

Tribunal decisions

The Tribunal decision will be communicated by email after the hearing so you may have a short wait for this to be received by us to pass on to you.

Cartwright King has lawyers in most areas of law, and the current information we are sharing is written by criminal lawyer and Director Steve Gelsthorpe and mental health lawyer Alison Ward of Cartwright King.

If you have any further queries around the above topic or otherwise, contact the firm here.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.