Get help now Make a donation

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 47?

If you’re serving a prison sentence, the prison can send you to hospital for treatment under section 47 of the Mental Health Act.

You can only be given a section 47 after you’ve been convicted of an offence and sent to prison. Before that, you can be transferred to hospital under section 48.

If the prison thinks you’re unwell and need to go to hospital, they can ask the Ministry of Justice for permission. The prison must send reports from 2 doctors saying that:

  • You have a mental disorder which means you should be in hospital for treatment
  • Treatment is available for you in hospital

How can I be discharged from a section 47?

Your responsible clinician can discharge you from a section 47 at any time.

You can also apply to the Mental Health Tribunal or the hospital managers if you want to be discharged. See our pages on leaving hospital for more information on how to do this.

If you’re discharged from hospital you can be sent back to prison to finish your sentence.

Once you’re discharged from section 47 and you are no longer detained, you’ll be eligible for free section 117 aftercare.

When can I apply to the Mental Health Tribunal?

You can apply:

  • Once in the first 6 months after your transfer
  • Once again in the second 6 months
  • Once per year after that

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

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

Can I challenge a section 47 transfer?

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for deciding whether you should be transferred to hospital. And if you should be transferred from hospital back to prison.

You could potentially challenge these decisions by judicial review. This may include any decision not to transfer you. See our pages on complaining about health and social care decisions for more information on how to do this.

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.

arrow_upwardBack to Top