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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.

What is a section 47?

If you are serving a prison sentence, the prison can send you to hospital for treatment under section 47.

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 are unwell and need to go to hospital, they can ask the Ministry of Justice for permission. The prison must send reports from two doctors saying that:

  • you have a 'mental disorder' which means you should be in hospital for treatment, and
  • treatment is available for you in hospital.

How long will I be in hospital?

Your responsible clinician can discharge you 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 are discharged from hospital you can be sent back to prison to finish your sentence. 

Once you are discharged from section 47, you will be eligible for free section 117 aftercare.

When can I apply to the Mental Health Tribunal?

You can apply:

  • once in the first six months after your transfer
  • once again in the second six months, and then
  • once every year.

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

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

Can I challenge the transfer?

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for deciding whether you should be transferred to hospital or from hospital back to prison. You could potentially challenge these decisions, including a decision not to transfer you, by judicial review. See our pages on complaining about health and social care decisions for more information on how to do this.

This information was published in July 2018.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

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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