The courts and mental health

Explains what may happen if you are charged with committing a crime, what happens when you to go court, and how your mental health is taken into account.

Your stories

Who would believe me?

Posted on 07/10/2013

“I didn’t even know what sectioning meant.”

Dan talks about his experience of being sectioned under the Mental Health Act after experiencing psychosis.

Dan Miller
Posted on 04/06/2019


Sometimes, people with mental health problems come into contact with the criminal justice system and have to go to court.

For information about what happens if you have contact with the police, including if you are arrested and if you are taken to the police station, see our legal information on the police and mental health.

Quick facts

    • Section 37 – This is an order to send you to hospital instead of prison.
    • Section 37/41 – This is an order to send you to hospital instead of prison, with restrictions added. The Crown Court might add restrictions if it thinks you are a serious risk to the public.     
    • Section 47 – If you're serving a prison sentence, the prison can transfer you from prison to hospital for treatment under section 47.
    • Section 47/49 – This is a transfer from prison to hospital, with restrictions added. The Ministry of Justice might add section 49 restrictions if they think it is appropriate.
    • Section 48/49 – Under section 48 you can be sent to hospital when on remand in prison or in an Immigration Removal Centre. Usually the Ministry of Justice will add special restrictions to your transfer under section 49, making it a section 48/49.
  • Don't forget to look after yourself. Going through any legal process involving the courts can be very stressful, especially if you’re living with a mental health problem. So it's important to make sure you're looking after your own mental health and wellbeing.

Please note:

  • This guide covers the courts and mental health and from the point of view of a person with a mental health problem.
  • This guide applies to England and Wales.
  • This guide contains general legal information, not legal advice. We recommend you get advice from a specialist legal adviser or solicitor who will help you with your individual situation and needs. See Useful contacts for more information.
  • The legal information in this guide does not apply to children unless specifically stated.


This information was published in July 2018. We will revise it in 2020.

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