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The courts and mental health

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

What is a section 37 hospital order?

A section 37 is an order to send you to hospital instead of prison. A Crown Court or Magistrates' Court can make this order if it thinks that a hospital order is the most appropriate way of dealing with your situation.

The Crown Court or Magistrates' Court can give you a hospital order if:

  • You’ve been charged with, or convicted of, an offence which could lead to a prison sentence
  • Two doctors have given evidence that you have a mental disorder that means you should be in hospital for treatment, and treatment is available
  • The court decides that a hospital order is the most suitable method of dealing with your case
  • Arrangements have been made for you to go to hospital within 28 days of the order

If the court thinks that you’re a high risk to the public, it can consider adding restrictions to the hospital order. This is known as a section 37/41. Only the Crown Court can add restrictions to the hospital order as part of a sentence. So if the Magistrates’ Court thinks this is needed, it must send the case to the Crown Court for sentencing.

How long will I be in hospital under section 37?

A section 37 initially lasts for 6 months. But it can be extended, or ‘renewed’, by your responsible clinician.

After the first 6 months, they can renew it for a further 6 months. And then after that, they can renew it for 12 months at a time. There’s no limit to how many times a section 37 can be renewed.

If it's not renewed, the section 37 will end. You’ll be free to leave hospital if you want to.

How can a hospital order be renewed?

For a hospital order to be renewed, several things must happen:

  • Your responsible clinician must see you and assess you.
  • Your responsible clinician must then consult with another professional about you. And then send a report to the hospital managers. They can use this report to say that they think the hospital order should be renewed.
  • The hospital managers will likely have a hearing to decide whether the hospital order should be extended. You can join this meeting if you wish. This may include if you disagree with the responsible clinician’s recommendation to renew the order.

How can I be discharged from a section 37?

There are a few ways in which you might be discharged:

If you’re discharged from a section 37, you’re free to leave hospital and live in the community. You will be eligible for free section 117 aftercare. It’s also possible that you may be put on a community treatment order (CTO).

When can I apply to the Mental Health Tribunal?

You can't apply in the first 6 months of the hospital order. But if the order is renewed, you can apply:

  • Once in the second 6 months
  • Once per year after that

It doesn't matter when the hearing takes place. It's the date of the application that must be within these periods.

If you’re under a section 37 order, the hearing should take place within 2 months of your application. Or if your hospital order is restricted, for example under a section 37/41, the hearing should take place within 4 months.

See our pages on leaving hospital for more information about the Mental Health Tribunal.

When must the Mental Health Tribunal discharge me?

The Mental Health Tribunal must discharge you if:

  • They don't think you have a mental disorder that requires you to be treated in hospital
  • They don't think it's necessary to get treatment for your health or safety, or to protect others
  • Appropriate treatment for you isn’t available

Can I appeal a section 37 hospital order?

You may be able to appeal the court's decision to give you a hospital order instead of another outcome, such as a prison sentence.

This information was published in April 2024. We'll revise it in 2027.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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