Glossary - legal terms explained

A glossary of legal terms used in England and Wales, and brief explanations of what they mean.

Your stories

How to help someone who's been sectioned

Harriet from our information team shares ways to help someone who's been detained under the Mental Health Act.

Mind Info team
Posted on 07/03/2017

How the Mind Legal Line helped me

Susan blogs about how the Mind Legal Line helped her when her mother developed psychosis and was sectioned.

Posted on 21/04/2015

The night I spent in a cell

Claire blogs about why a police cell was the last place she needed to be during a mental health crisis.

Posted on 27/11/2014

This page covers:

  • Terms and phrases
  • People and teams
  • Bodies and services
  • Courts and tribunals
  • Pieces of legislature (laws)

Click on any of the terms listed on this page to read a full description of what it means, and where to find more information.

Terms and phrases

  • Absolute right
  • Advance decision
  • Advance statement
  • Anticipatory duty
  • Appropriate treatment (or appropriate medical treatment)
  • Arrest
  • Article
  • Bail
  • Barring report
  • Best interests
  • Capacity
  • Care Programme Approach (CPA)
    and Care and Treatment Planning (CTP)
  • Caution
  • Certificate dispute form
  • Certificate of capacity
  • Charged
  • Claim
  • Clinical negligence
  • Cohabitee
  • Conditional discharge
  • Criminal record
  • Data subject
  • DBS certificate
  • DBS check
  • Declaration of incompatibility
  • Deprivation of liberty
  • Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)
  • Detained
  • Disability
  • Disability discrimination
  • Discrimination
  • Displacement
  • Disproportionate effort
  • Enduring power of attorney
  • Enhanced DBS check
  • Enhanced DBS with list check
  • Enforcement notice
  • Escorted leave
  • Filtering
  • Formal patient
  • Final warning
  • Guardianship
  • Healthcare decisions
  • Health record
  • Immediate care or control
  • Informal patient (also known as voluntary patient)

  • Judicial review
  • Justification
  • Lasting power of attorney (LPA)
  • Legal aid
  • Limited right
  • Local police records
  • Medical treatment
  • Mental disorder
  • Not kept under proper control
  • Occupational health
  • Parental responsibility
  • Patient
  • Personal Information
  • Place of safety
  • Prohibited conduct
  • Proportionate
  • Protected characteristics
  • Protected convictions and cautions
  • Premises
  • Public functions
  • Public sector equality duty
  • Qualified right
  • Reasonable adjustments
  • Recalled
  • Redact
  • Section
  • Remand
  • Released under investigation (RUI)
  • Reprimand
  • Restriction order or restriction direction
  • Revocation
  • Secondary mental health services
  • Sentence
  • Service provider
  • Services
  • Social care decisions
  • Spent convictions
  • Standard DBS check
  • Subject Access Request (SAR)
  • Supervised community treatment (SCT)
  • Unspent conviction
  • Voluntary patient (also known as informal patient)
  • Vulnerable adult

People and teams

  • Advocate
  • Appointee
  • Appropriate adult
  • Appropriate healthcare practitioner (AHCP)
  • Approved clinician
  • Approved mental health professional (AMHP)
  • Attourney
  • Care coordinator
  • Circuit judge
  • Community mental health team (CMHT)
  • Custody officer
  • Deputy
  • Duty solicitor
  • Hospital managers (also known as Mental Health Act managers)

  • Independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA)
  • Independent mental health advocate (IMHA)
  • Litigation friend
  • Mental Health Act administrator
  • Mental Health Act managers (also known as hospital managers)
  • Nearest relative (NR)
  • Official Solicitor
  • Registered medical practitioner
  • Relevant person's representative (RPR)
  • Responsible clinician (RC)
  • Second opinion appointed doctor (SOAD)
  • Section 12 approved doctor

Bodies and services

  • Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs)
  • Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
  • Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • Independent Monitor
  • Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)
  • Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)

  • Liaison and Diversion
  • Local health boards (LHBs)
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)
  • Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)
  • Ombudsman
  • Public authorities
  • Regulator (health and social care)


  • Care Act 2014
  • Community treatment order (CTO)
  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • Equality Act 2010
  • Human Rights Act 1998
  • Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)
  • Mental Capacity Act 2005
  • Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice
  • Mental Health Act Code of Practice
  • Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 1984)
  • Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) codes of practice
  • Section 117 aftercare
  • Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

Courts & Tribunals

  • County court
  • Court of Protection
  • Crown Court
  • Employment Tribunal
  • Magistrates’ court
  • Mental Health Tribunal (MHT)
  • Upper tribunal


Absolute right

Absolute human rights cannot be taken away under any circumstances or for any reason. The right to a fair trial (Article 6) is an example of an absolute right.

>Find out more in our pages on the Human Rights Act 1998.


Advance decision

An advance decision is a statement of instructions about what medical treatment you want to refuse in case you lose the capacity to make these decisions in the future. It is legally binding.

>Find out more in our pages on the Mental Capacity Act 2005.


Advance statement

An advance statement is a written document that sets out your preferences (apart from refusals of treatment). It is not legally binding. You can ask a professional to follow this document if you ever lose capacity to make these decisions yourself.

>Find out more in our pages on the Mental Capacity Act 2005.


Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS)

ACAS is an organisation that provides information, advice, training, conciliation and other services for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems.

ACAS offers a free Early Conciliation service. If you want to take a disability discrimination challenge against your employer at the Employment Tribunal, you have to contact ACAS first and you need proof that you have done so before you can start a claim.

>Find out more in our pages on disability discrimination



An advocate is a person who can both listen to you and speak for you in times of need. Having an advocate can be helpful in situations where you are finding it difficult to make your views known, or to make people listen to them and take them into account.

>Find out more in our pages on advocacy.


Anticipatory duty

Organisations and people who provide services or public functions and clubs and associations have to plan in advance to take account of the difficulties that disabled people may face.

This means they must think and plan ahead to make sure that disabled people can access their services. This includes thinking about reasonable adjustments they could make.

>Find out more in our pages on disability discrimination.



An appointee is someone appointed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to help manage your benefits for you if you lose capacity to manage them yourself.

>Find out more in our pages on the Mental Capacity Act 2005.


Appropriate adult

If you are held by the police and they realise, or are told, that you have a mental health problem, you have the right to be accompanied by an appropriate adult.

They should be an adult who is independent of the police, such as a member of your family or a mental health worker, but they cannot be your solicitor. You can’t choose who your appropriate adult is, but you may be asked you about your preferences.

An appropriate adult should:

  • make sure that you get a solicitor
  • request that you are seen by a doctor
  • help you to communicate with the police
  • be present if you are questioned about an offence.

>Find out more in our pages on the police and mental health.


Appropriate healthcare practitioner (AHCP)

This is the term used for the medical professional who is called to the police station if you need medical assessment or treatment.

>Find out more in our pages on the police and mental health.


Appropriate treatment

Sometimes called 'appropriate medical treatment'. This means medical treatment for your mental health problem that is:

  • suitable for you
  • available
  • takes into account the nature and degree of your mental health problem and your individual circumstances


Approved clinician

A mental health professional who has certain responsibilities related to your healthcare. They are approved to do this by the Department of Health (England) or by the Welsh Ministers (Wales).

Approved clinicians may be:

  • doctors
  • psychologists
  • nurses
  • occupational therapists
  • social workers.

Some decisions under the Mental Health Act, such as deciding on your medication or giving you permission to leave the ward or hospital, can only be taken by approved clinicians.


Approved mental health professional (AMHP)

AMHPs are mental health professionals who have been approved by a local social services authority to carry out certain duties under the Mental Health Act. They are responsible for coordinating your assessment and admission to hospital if you are sectioned.

They may be:

  • social workers
  • nurses
  • occupational therapists
  • psychologists.

>Find out more in our pages on sectioning.



An attorney is a person over the age of 18 whom you have appointed to make decisions on your behalf about your welfare and/or your property and financial affairs. You need an attorney if you are unable to make such decisions yourself. If you do not have the capacity to appoint an attorney, the Court of Protection will appoint a deputy to perform this role.

  • A health and welfare attorney makes decisions about things like your daily routine, your medical care, where you live and, if you specially request this, whether you should have life-sustaining treatment.
  • A property and financial affairs attorney makes decisions about things like paying bills, collecting benefits and selling your home.



The police will stop you and detain you if they are investigating or preventing a crime and think that you are involved. You have certain rights in this situation.

>Find out more in our legal page on being arrested.



Each human right is referred to as a separate article in the Human Rights Act 1998, for example, Article 2: Right to life. These articles come from the European Convention on Human Rights.



Release from custody, possibly with certain conditions attached (for example to return to the police station or to go to court at a certain time).

>Find out more in our pages on the police and mental health.


Barring report

This is the report written by the responsible clinician stopping the discharge of someone under section when an application has been made by the nearest relative.


Best interests

Health professionals must act in your best interests before taking certain steps that affect your care and treatment.

The Mental Capacity Act has a best interests checklist, which outlines what health professionals need to consider before taking an action or decision for you while you lack capacity.

>Find out more in our page on best interests.



'Capacity' means the ability to understand information and make decisions about your life. Sometimes it can also mean the ability to communicate decisions about your life.

If you do not understand the information and are unable to make a decision about your care, for example, you are said to lack capacity.

>Find out more in our page on capacity.


Care Act 2014

This is the law which sets out the local authorities’ duties in relation to assessing people’s needs and their eligibility for care and support (adult social care), including carers who need support. It applies in England only.


Care coordinator

A care coordinator is the main point of contact and support if you need ongoing mental health care.

They keep in close contact with you while you receive mental health care and monitor how that care is delivered – particularly when you’re outside of hospital.

They are also responsible for carrying out an assessment to work out your health and social care needs under the care programme approach (CPA).

A care coordinator could be any mental health professional, for example:

  • nurse
  • social worker
  • other mental health worker.

This is decided according to what is most appropriate for your situation.

A care coordinator usually works as part of the community mental health team.


Care Programme Approach (CPA)
and Care and Treatment Planning (CTP)

The Care Programme Approach (CPA) is a way that secondary mental health services are assessed, planned, coordinated and reviewed for someone that lives in England.

Secondary mental health services include the Community Mental Health Team, Assertive Outreach Team and Early Intervention Team.

The Care and Treatment Planning (CTP) is a similar process for people living in Wales. But it comes from a law called the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010.

In both England and Wales you should get:

  • a full assessment of your health and social care needs
  • a care plan
  • regular reviews
  • a care coordinator who will be responsible for overseeing your care and support.



This could be two different things:

  • A formal warning given by a senior police officer, usually in a police station, after a person has committed an offence. This is used instead of charging and potentially prosecuting someone.
  • A statement read to you when you are arrested, interviewed and charged.

>Find out more in our pages on the police and mental health.


Certificate dispute form

This is the form you use if you are unhappy about the content of a DBS Certificate.

>Find out more in our pages on working with children and vulnerable adults.


Certificate of capacity

This is a document, signed by a certificate provider, confirming that you understand why you are making a lasting power of attorney, and that no fraud or undue pressure has been used on you to force you to make it. You need to include a certificate of capacity with your forms when naming someone as your attorney.



This means that you have been formally accused of committing a crime. You will be given a paper called the charge sheet which will have details of the allegations and the date you have to go to court, as well as any conditions of bail.

>Find out more in our pages on the police and mental health.


Circuit judge

Circuit judges are senior judges in England and Wales who sit in the Crown Court, county courts and certain specialised sub-divisions of the High Court of Justice. Circuit judges sit below High Court judges but above district judges. They will be a barrister or solicitor having been qualified at least 7 years.



‘Bringing a claim’ means going to court to try to put right a breach of your legal rights.

>Find out more in our pages on complaining about health and social care.


Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs)

CGs are groups of GP practices and other healthcare professionals and bodies that are responsible for commissioning most health and care services for patients. They have replaced Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England.


Clinical negligence

Negligence is the breach of a legal duty of care owed to one person by another which results in damage being caused to that person. Clinical negligence (often called medical negligence) is concerned with claims against doctors and other healthcare professionals and their employers.

A clinical negligence claim is when you make a claim for compensation because the care you received from a professional was negligent.

>Find out more in our pages on clinical negligence.



A cohabitee is person who lives with another person as if they are married without having gone through the legal process of marriage.


Community mental health team (CMHT)

CMHTs support people with mental health problems living in the community, and also their carers. The team may include:

  • a social worker
  • a community psychiatric nurse (CPN)
  • a psychologist
  • an occupational therapist
  • a counsellor
  • a community support worker.


Community treatment order (CTO)

If you have been sectioned and treated in hospital under certain sections, your responsible clinician (RC) can apply for you to be put on a CTO. This means that you can be discharged from the section and leave hospital, but you might have to meet certain conditions such as:

  • living in a certain place
  • going somewhere for medical treatment.

>Find out more in our legal pages on community treatment orders (CTOs).


Conditional discharge

This is where you are discharged from hospital into the community by a tribunal or the Secretary of State for Justice, but you have to meet certain conditions. If you break these conditions, you can be recalled to hospital by the Secretary of State for Justice.

You will only be put under a conditional discharge if you have been:

  • sectioned by a court under certain sections of the Mental Health Act, and have been charged with a crime, and you are a restricted patient under a restriction order, or
  • transferred to hospital from prison under the Mental Health Act and you are a restricted patient under a restriction direction.


County court

This is a court which deals with civil (non–criminal) matters.  There are fees for starting a claim in the county court. But if you have a low income, you may be able to pay a reduced amount, or none at all (called a ‘fee remission’).

Cases in the county court are in one of three tracks:

  • small claims track is where the amount of compensation you are asking for is less than £10,000 and your case is not complicated
  • fast track is where your case is more complicated but can be finished in a 1-day hearing
  • multi-track is where the claim is complicated, and/or will take longer than a 1-day hearing, and/or is for a larger sum of money

Fast track and multi-track cases are costly and if you do not win your case, you usually have to pay the other person’s legal costs.


Court of Protection

The Court of Protection makes decisions and appoints deputies to act on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions about your personal health, finance or welfare.

>Find out more in our legal page on the Court of Protection


Criminal record

A record of convictions held on the Police National Computer (PNC) for individuals convicted of crimes.


Crown Court

Deals with more serious criminal cases, such as murder or robbery, some of which have been referred by the Magistrates’ courts. Trials are heard by a judge and jury.


Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

Public office responsible for ensuring a prosecution is brought to court only if there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest.


Custody officer

This is the police officer who is in charge of running the police custody area. They are responsible for your care and welfare whilst in the station.

>Find out more in our pages on the police and mental health.


Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act 1998 is the law that gives you rights to look at and have copies of information held about you by various organisations and agencies.


Data subject

This is the person to whom the information relates. If you want to access information held about you, then you are the data subject.


DBS certificate

The document issued following an application to the DBS for a criminal records check. It will contain the personal information you have provided and the result of the checks undertaken.


DBS check

A check of your criminal record carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service. This used to be called a 'CRB check'.


Declaration of incompatibility

A court can make a declaration of incompatibility if it finds that a particular law has not obeyed the Human Rights Act 1998. The government then looks at the law and decides whether it should be changed.


Deprivation of liberty

A deprivation of liberty is where your liberty is taken away from you - that is, you are not free to leave and under continuous supervision and control. The Mental Capacity Act says that the law allows this only in very specific situations.

This may happen to you if you need to go into a care home or hospital to get care or treatment, but you don't have the capacity to make decisions about this yourself.


Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)

If you are in a hospital or care home, your liberty can normally only be taken away if health professionals use the procedures called the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. This protects you from having your liberty taken away without good reason.

See our pages on the Mental Capacity Act for more information.



A deputy is a person the Court of Protection appoints to make decisions for you once you have lost capacity to make them yourself. A deputy usually makes decisions about finances and property. The court can appoint a deputy to take healthcare and personal care decisions, though this is relatively rare.



A person is detained if they are being kept in hospital under section and are not free to leave.



The Equality Act says that you have a disability if you have an impairment that is either physical or mental and the impairment has a substantial, adverse and long term effect on your normal daily activities.


Disability discrimination

This is when someone is treated worse because of their physical or mental health condition. The Equality Act explains:

  • what a disability is, and
  • when worse treatment is discrimination.

You have to show that you have a disability before you can challenge worse treatment as disability discrimination.


Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

The agency responsible for processing requests for:

  • criminal records checks
  • deciding whether it is appropriate for a person to be placed on or removed from a barred list
  • placing or removing people from the DBS children’s barred list and adults’ barred list for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Disclosure and Barring Service has replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).



There are many situations in which you may feel treated unfairly because of your disability, but the Equality Act only covers these types of discrimination:

  • direct discrimination
  • discrimination arising from disability
  • indirect discrimination
  • harassment
  • victimisation
  • the duty to make reasonable adjustments.



Displacement is where you change your nearest relative (NR). The process of changing the nearest relative is often known as ‘displacement proceedings’. Your nearest relative can be displaced if you or the local authority have concerns about the way that they are behaving.


Disproportionate effort

This term is not defined in the Data Protection Act 1998, but the Information Commissioner's Office suggests that the following should be taken into account:

  • the cost of giving you the information
  • the length of time it will take
  • how difficult it will be
  • the size of the organisation
  • the effect on you of not having the information in permanent form.


Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

This is a government department that maintains registers of drivers and vehicles in Great Britain.

If you drive, you may have to tell the DVLA if have a mental health problem.

(See our legal pages on fitness to drive for more information.)


Duty solicitor

This is the solicitor or specialist legal adviser who will be available to give you advice at the time that you are taken to the police station. They are completely independent of the police and you do not have to pay for them to attend the police station. You are allowed to choose your own if you prefer.

>Find out more in our pages on the police and mental health.


Employment Tribunal

The Employment Tribunal decides disputes between employers and employees about employment rights. An Employment Tribunal is like a court but not always so formal.


Enduring power of attorney

Enduring powers of attorney have been replaced by lasting powers of attorney in England and Wales. However, they can still be used if they were made and signed before October 2007.


Enhanced DBS check

A check of your criminal record which will show details of:

  • all spent and unspent convictions
  • cautions
  • reprimands 
  • final warnings held on central police records (apart from protected convictions and cautions)
  • additional information held on local police records that is reasonably considered relevant to the job in question.

Enhanced DBS with list check

A check of your criminal record which will show the same as an Enhanced DBS, but will also include a check of the Disclosure and Barring Service children and adults barred lists – a list of individuals who are barred from working with children or vulnerable adults.


Enforcement notice

A document sent to an organisation by the Information Commissioner's Office setting out the action it needs to take to comply with its obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence which can result in a fine.


Equality Act 2010

This is the law that explains:

  • what behaviour counts as unlawful discrimination
  • who has a right to challenge discrimination

(For more information on the Equality Act 2010, see our legal pages on diability discrimination.)

Escorted leave

This is where you are allowed to leave the ward accompanied by a member or members of the hospital staff. Your responsible clinician (RC) grants you permission to leave the ward under section 17 of the Mental Health Act.


Filtering is the process which identifies and removes protected convictions and cautions so they are no longer disclosed on a DBS certificate. Convictions and cautions are not 'wiped' from your record, they are simply not disclosed on the DBS certificate.

Final warning

These no longer exist, but were given to young people under the age of 18 if the police decided not to prosecute them and they had already received a reprimand for a previous offence.

They were also given for first offences that were too serious for a reprimand.


Formal patient

A formal patient is someone who is being detained in hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act, and is therefore not free to leave.


This is where someone called a ‘guardian’ is appointed to help you live as independently as possible in the community, instead of being sectioned and kept in hospital.

You would be placed under guardianship if your mental health problem meant that it would be difficult for you to avoid danger or people taking advantage of you. Your guardian has the power to make certain decisions about you and to make conditions that you will be asked to keep to.

(For more information see our legal pages on community care and aftercare.)


Health record

Any record of information relating to your physical or mental health that has been made by or on behalf of a health professional.  Often called a medical record.  Rigt to access..... [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]


Healthcare decisions

Healthcare decisions are made by people like GPs, nurses and hospital managers. These can include decisions like:

  • the information you've been given about your treatment
  • your discharge from hospital, or
  • how long you've waited for treatment.

Hospital managers 

(Also known as Mental Health Act managers.)

An independent team of people in a hospital who make sure that the requirements of the Mental Health Act are properly applied. They have certain important responsibilities and can make decisions related to your detention – for example, they can hear your application to be discharged from your section and decide whether or not to discharge you.

Human Rights Act 1998

In the UK, our human rights are protected by law. This law is called the Human Rights Act 1998.

(For more information, see our legal pages on the Human Rights Act 1998.)

Immediate care or control

This means that you are vulnerable because of your mental health problem and you need a level of care or control that you are not receiving in the public place to keep you safe and healthy.


Independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA)

A specially trained advocate who can help you if you do not have the capacity to make particular decisions. NHS bodies or local authorities must take an IMCA's views into account when making decisions that affect you if you have lost capacity.  

They are normally appointed by the local authority in England, and by local Health Boards or other NHS bodies in Wales. They must be independent people of integrity and good character with appropriate experience and training.

>Find out more in our page on IMCAs.


Independent mental health advocate (IMHA)

An IMHA is an advocate specially trained to help you find out your rights under the Mental Health Act and help you while you are detained. They can listen to what you want and speak for you.

You have a right to an IMHA if you are:

  • detained in hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act, but not if you are under sections 4, 5, 135 and 136
  • under guardianship, conditional discharge and community treatment orders (CTOs)
  • discussing having certain treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

In Wales, voluntary patients can also have an IMHA.

(For more information, see our pages on: IMHAs (England), IMHAs (Wales) and statutory advocacy.)


Independent Monitor

An independent body responsible for reviewing disputes from applicants regarding local police information disclosed on Enhanced DBS Certificates.


Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)

The IPCC oversees the police complaints system in England and Wales.

You can contact them through their website:


Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)

The independent body responsible for making sure that organisations comply with their obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.  [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]


Judicial review

This is a type of court procedure where a judge reviews a public authority’s decision, policy, practice, act or failure to act, and decides whether it is lawful or not.

If it is not lawful, the court may cancel the decision or action (‘quash’ it), and require the public authority to reconsider it, lawfully. The court can order the authority to do or not do something.



It might be lawful for a person or organisation to treat you unfavourably if they can show that:

  • there were valid intentions behind their action (such as ensuring the health and safety of others, or keeping up staff attendance so that their business can run properly),


  • that it was an appropriate action to take in the circumstance. 

Legally this is called a 'justification'.

Whoever is deciding whether or not unfavourable treatment is justified needs to balance the needs of both sides carefully, which can be very complicated.


Lasting power of attorney

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that lets you appoint someone, called an attorney, to make decisions for you.


Legal aid

Legal aid is financial support which can help meet the costs of legal advice, family mediation and representation in a court or tribunal. You can find out more about legal aid on the UK government website. You can also contact Civil Legal Advice to find out whether you're eligible.

Liaison and Diversion

Liaison and Diversion services identify people who have mental health problems, a learning disability, substance misuse or other vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system as suspects, defendants or offenders.

You should be assessed by someone from this service, who will:

  • provide an immediate recommendation on your needs
  • produce an assessment report that can be made available to criminal justice professionals
  • contact a broad range of services to try to put treatment for your other needs in place.

Limited right

Limited human rights can be restricted for specific reasons. Human rights can only be restricted if it is proportionate – that is, it must be for a fair and valid reason.

For example, the right to liberty (Article 5) is a limited right. A person can be detained by the state for many lawful reasons including prison, mental health grounds and other reasons listed in the Article.

Litigation friend

A litigation friend is someone who can take your place in legal proceedings, if you lack capacity to take part yourself. For example, the litigation friend could instruct solicitors on behalf of you, or speak to the judge directly on your behalf. A litigation friend could be a family member, a friend, or the Official Solicitor.

Local health boards (LHBs)

These are organisations in the health service in Wales that have been set up to develop and provide health services based on the needs of the local community.

Local police records

Police records, not held on the Police National Computer (PNC), containing non-conviction information.

Magistrates’ court

This type of court generally deals with more minor offences, referring more serious offences to the Crown Court.

Medical treatment

In the Mental Health Act this means medical treatment that is used to relieve the signs and symptoms of your mental health condition, or to stop it from getting worse. It includes:

  • nursing
  • psychological intervention and specialist mental health habilitation (learning skills)
  • rehabilitation (relearning skills)
  • care

Mental Capacity Act 2005

If you can’t make decisions for yourself because you don’t have the mental capacity to make them, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 tells you what you can do to plan ahead, how you can ask someone else to make decisions for you and who can make decisions for you if you haven't planned ahead.

(For more information, see our legal pages on the Mental Capacity Act 2005.)

Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice

An official document that places certain legal duties on health and social care professionals, and offers general guidance and information to anyone caring for someone who may lack capacity. It explains how the Mental Capacity Act should be interpreted.

Mental disorder

When the Mental Health Act talks about someone with mental health problems and whether or not they should be sectioned, it often uses the term “mental disorder”. The Act defines this as “any disorder or disability of mind” (section 1).

Mental disorder can include:

  • Any mental health problem normally diagnosed in psychiatry.
  • Learning disabilities, if the disability makes you act in a way which may seem "abnormally aggressive" or "seriously irresponsible".


Mental Health Act 1983

This is a law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental illness and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.

(For more information, see our legal page about the Mental Health Act 1983.)

Mental Health Act administrator

The administrator works in the hospital and deals with collecting and keeping the section or community treatment order (CTO) papers safe. They make sure that procedures are followed – like making sure you are given the right information and arranging hearings. 


Mental Health Act Code of Practice

This tells health professionals how they should follow the Mental Health Act. It is not law, so it cannot be enforced by going to court, but health professionals should follow it unless there is a good reason not to.

The Code covers some areas not specifically mentioned in the Mental Health Act 1983, such as visiting rights and the use of seclusion.

If a health professional doesn’t follow the Code, you can make a complaint.


Mental Health Tribunal (MHT)

This is a special court that deals with cases relating to the Mental Health Act. The Tribunal decides whether you can be discharged from your section and can decide about suitable aftercare and make recommendations about matters such as hospital leave, transfer to another hospital, guardianship and community treatment orders (CTOs).

The court is made of a panel, which normally includes:

  • a legally qualified chairperson
  • a ‘lay person’ who has appropriate experience and qualifications in the area of mental health
  • an independent psychiatrist, who will speak to you and examine you before the tribunal hearing in certain circumstances, and when you request to see them.

Where you see a reference to the Mental Health Tribunal on Mind's website, it means:

  • First Tier Tribunal (Mental Health), if you live in England, or
  • Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales, if you live in Wales.


Ministry of Justice

Government department responsible for courts, prisons, probation services and attendance centres.


Nearest relative (NR)

This is a family member who has certain responsibilities and powers if you are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act. These include the right to information and to discharge in some situations.

The law sets out a list to decide who will be the nearest relative. This can sometimes be changed.

(For more information see our legal pages on the nearest relative.)


Not kept under proper control

This means that you are vulnerable because of your mental health problem, and you need a level of care or control that you are not receiving at the time of the warrant to keep you safe and healthy.


Occupational health

The job of an occupational health professional is to assess you to find out:

  • how your work impacts your health
  • if you are fit for the work you do
  • what adjustments may need to be made to support you at work.

Your employer can refer you to occupational health if you have a physical or mental health problem that is affecting your work or causing you to take time off sick, particularly if this is more than 2 or 3 weeks at once.

If you disagree with their assessment, it is important to seek advice.

There is also a government-funded initiative called Fit for Work which provides occupational health assessments and expert advice. If you have been off sick for four weeks or more, your employer or GP can refer you to Fit for Work for an occupational health assessment or a return to work plan (if you agree to this). You can also contact Fit for Work for work-related health advice.

Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA)

This is the independent organisation that reviews individual complaints by students against universities. You have to try to sort out your discrimination complaint using the complaints procedure of the university before you can contact OIA.


Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)

The Office of the Public Guardian:

  • makes sure decisions made by the Court of Protection are enforced
  • registers lasting powers of attorney
  • supervises deputies appointed by the Court
  • helps attorneys and deputies carry out their duties
  • publishes information and guidance about the Mental Capacity Act for families, carers, healthcare professionals and lawyers
  • publishes forms for making a lasting power of attorney and applying to the Court of Protection 
  • investigates concerns about the actions of attorneys and deputies.

Official Solicitor

If you lack capacity to conduct legal proceedings for yourself, and decisions are being made for you in a court, the court may ask the Official Solicitor to take part in the proceedings. The job of the Official Solicitor is to make sure that your interests are protected during the proceedings.


An ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate someone's complaint against a company or organisation, especially a public authority. The ombudsman is independent of the NHS, providers of care, local authorities and the government.

Parental responsibility

This is a legal term which means that a person has rights and responsibilities towards a child.



This is defined in the Mental Health Act as 'a person suffering or appearing to be suffering from mental disorder'.


Personal information

Information which relates to you in such a way that you can be identified from the information.

(For more information on your rights regarding your personal information, see our legal pages on my personal information.)


Place of safety

A locally agreed place where the police may take you to be assessed, usually a police station or a hospital. A police station should normally only be used in an emergency.


Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 1984)

This is the law that sets out the rules that the police must follow when you are arrested about how they treat you.


Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) codes of practice

This is practical guidance about how the police should use their powers and follow the rules in Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 1984).



'Premises' means buildings and land that goes with them (property) in which people live, or that they use for their business.


Prohibited conduct

Prohibited conduct is the special term used in the Equality Act to cover behaviour that counts as unlawful. It covers discrimination, harassment, failure to make reasonable adjustments and victimisation.



Some human rights can be restricted. If they are restricted, it must be done in a ‘proportionate’ way. This means that it is appropriate and not excessive in the circumstances.

[[does this need widening out?]]


Protected characteristics

'Protected characteristics' is the name for the nine personal characteristics that are protected by the Equality Act in certain situations. They are:

  • age
  • disability (this can include mental health problems)
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.


Protected convictions and cautions

Convictions and cautions which will be removed from your DBS certificate by filtering. Whether convictions will be protected will depend on the type of offence, when you were convicted or cautioned, and how old you were when convicted or cautioned.

>Find out more in our legal pages on working with children and vulnerable adults.


Public authorities

These are organisations whose role is of a public nature. This includes:

  • police
  • NHS hospitals and employees
  • local authorities and their employees
  • some nursing and personal care accommodation providers
  • prison staff
  • courts and tribunals, including Mental Health Tribunals
  • government departments and their employees
  • statutory bodies and their employees (for example the Information Commissioner’s Office).


Public functions

This means an act or activity taken by a public authority which is not a service. A public authority carries out a public function when it performs its particular legal duties and powers. Examples of public functions are licensing, planning and enforcement of parking.

Public authorities can get private companies or voluntary organisations to carry out their public functions. So for example, a private company that runs prisons and takes prisoners into custody would be considered a private company carrying out a public function.


Public sector equality duty

This is the legal duty which public authorities like councils, NHS hospitals and government departments have to follow. It means they have to consider how their policies and practices affect people with protected characteristics, like people with mental health problems.

Private or voluntary organisations also have to follow the public sector equality duty when they carry out a public function on behalf of public authorities. For example, a private firm that is employed by a local council to collect council tax arrears needs to follow the public sector equality duty.

>Find out more in our legal page on the public sector equality duty.


Qualified right

This means that these rights can only be restricted when certain general conditions are met. This means your individual rights need to be balanced with the interests of the wider community.

An example of this would be the government restricting your right to freedom of expression (Article 10) if you are encouraging racial hatred.


Reasonable adjustments

These are changes that:

  • employers
  • organisations and people providing services and public functions
  • education providers such as universities and colleges
  • managers of properties such as landlords
  • clubs and associations.

should make for you if you are at a major disadvantage because of your mental health problems and it is reasonable.

Examples of reasonable adjustments include:

  • making changes to the way things are organised or done   
  • making changes to the built environment, or physical features such as steps or doorways around you
  • providing aids and services for you.



This is a legal definition meaning that you can be returned to hospital for up to 72 hours. You can be recalled to any hospital if the responsible clinician thinks that:

  • you need medical treatment in hospital for your mental disorder, and 
  • there would be risk of harm to your health or safety or to others if you are not recalled.

You must meet both criteria.



This means removing the relevant information. It can be done by crossing through the relevant information with a black marker pen and then photocopying the document or by using a computerised programme specially designed for this purpose.


Registered medical practitioner

A qualified doctor, for example a GP or psychiatrist.


Regulator (health and social care)

Health and social care regulators oversee the health and social care professions by regulating individual professionals.

These organisations are set up to protect the public so that whenever you see a health or social care professional, you can be confident that they are of a professional standard.


Released under investigation (RUI)

After arrest, instead of releasing you on bail with conditions, the police can decide to release you under investigation (often referred to as 'RUI'). This is not the same as being released on bail, as you do not have any conditions and there is no date upon which you must return to the police station. 

Being released under investigation does not mean that the police have decided to take no further action against you. It simply means that they are continuing their investigation.

>Find out more in our legal pages on the police and mental health


Relevant person's representative (RPR)

This is someone who can support you in all matters connected to a deprivation of liberty safeguards situation, like requesting a review of the deprivation of liberty and making an application to the Court of Protection. It can be someone like a family member (and often is). You can choose who you want it to be if you have the capacity to do so.

An relevant person's representative must be:

  • aged 18 or over
  • willing to be your RPR
  • able to keep in touch with you
  • physically well enough so that they can carry out their role
  • an independent person. This means they cannot be your professional or paid carer.



In this context, this means that you are sent to hospital by the court either before or after trial for medical examination. This is so a medical report on your mental condition can be prepared.

>Find out more in our pages on sectioning.



The equivalent of a caution for young people aged under 18. These no longer exist. See also, final warning.


Responsible clinician (RC)

This is the mental health professional in charge of your care and treatment while you are sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Certain decisions, such as applying for someone who is sectioned to go onto a community treatment order (CTO), can only be taken by the responsible clinician.

All responsible clinicians must be approved clinicians. They do not have to be a doctor, but in practice many of them are.

>Find out more in our pages on sectioning.


Restriction order or restriction direction

This is an order made by the court when it has made a hospital order under section 37 to put restrictions on your discharge, transfer or leave from hospital. The Secretary of State's consent must be obtained in order to do these. This means it will be harder to get discharged by the tribunal or you might have to comply with certain conditions.

It can only be made if it is necessary to protect the public from serious harm.

>Find out more in our pages on sectioning.



This is a legal definition which means that your community treatment order (CTO) has ended and that you are detained under the original section, for example section 3.

 >Find out more in our legal pages on community treatment orders (CTOs).


Second opinion appointed doctor (SOAD)

This is an independent doctor appointed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England or by the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. You need his or her approval to be given or continue to be given certain forms of medical treatment under the Mental Health Act.

>Find out more in our pages on consent to treatment.


Secondary mental health services

These are services provided by medical specialists who generally do not have the first contact with you.

This means that you will need to be referred to them by your GP or another specialist. For example, if you go to your GP’s surgery and see your doctor or nurse this is primary care.

If your doctor refers you to the community mental health team (CMHT) or another service this would be secondary care.

In mental health, these services would include

  • Community mental health team (CMHT)
  • Assertive Outreach Team
  • Early Intervention Team



Being 'sectioned' means that you are kept in hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act. There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are detained under.

>Find out more in our pages on sectioning.


Section 12 approved doctor

A doctor trained and qualified in the use of the Mental Health Act, usually a psychiatrist. They may also be a responsible clinician (RC), if the responsible clinician is a doctor.


Section 117 aftercare

Health authorities and local social services have a legal duty to provide free aftercare for people who have been detained under Mental Health Act sections 3, 37, 47 or 48, but who have left hospital. The duty to provide aftercare also applies if you are under a CTO. Aftercare services in the aftercare plan should be provided free of charge.

>Find out more in our pages on leaving hospital.



If you have been to court and have been found you guilty, or you have pleaded guilty, you will be given a sentence by the judge. This could be a range of sentences including:

  • a community sentence such as doing unpaid work
  • going to prison
  • going to hospital.


Service provider

This is an organisation or person that provides services to the public or a section of the public for payment or for free. It includes private companies, voluntary organisations and public authorities.



This includes services provided by:

  • local councils, such as advice services or social work services and park and leisure services
  • government departments, such as prison education, job centres and court services
  • charities, such as information and advice services
  • private companies and people, such as hotels, restaurants, solicitors, accountants, telesales businesses, leisure centres, sports facilities, gas and electric companies, buses, trains, theatres, cinemas
  • places of worship
  • GPs, hospitals and clinics.


Social care decisions

Social care decisions are made by people such as social workers, nurses or support workers. These can include decisions like:

  • how you have been assessed for social care
  • a refusal to provide a particular service in your area
  • inappropriate behaviour of staff in social service.


Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

This is the law which sets out in one place the local authorities’ duties in relation to assessing people’s needs and their eligibility for care and support (child and adult social care), including carers who need support. It applies in Wales only.


Spent convictions

A conviction that, after a period of time, can be treated as if it never existed and no longer needs to be disclosed (except for the purposes of DBS checks).


Standard DBS check

A check of your criminal record which will show details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on central police records (apart from protected convictions and cautions).


Subject Access Request (SAR)

A written request to an organisation asking for details of the personal information they hold about you.

>Find out more in our pages on personal information.


Supervised community treatment (SCT)

You can be under supervised community treatment if you are put under a community treatment order (CTO).

>Find out more in our legal pages on community treatment orders (CTOs).


Voluntary patients

(Also known as 'informal patients'.)

These are people who are staying in a psychiatric hospital but are not detained under the Mental Health Act. They should be able to come and go from the hospital within reason and are able to discharge themselves if they decide to go home.

>Find out more in our pages on voluntary patients.


Unspent conviction

Except in very limited circumstances, when a person is convicted of a crime, that conviction is considered to be irrelevant after a set amount of time (the rehabilitation period) and it is then referred to as 'spent'. This period of time varies according to the sentence received.

A conviction is described as unspent if the rehabilitation period associated with it has not yet lapsed.


Upper tribunal

This is a tribunal which handles appeals received from lower tribunals. It is not a specialist mental health tribunal.

You can appeal to it if the Mental Health Tribunal got a point of law wrong. In practice, it is rarely used in mental health.


Vulnerable adult

A person aged 18 or over who:

  • receives (or may need) community care services because of a disability, age or illness, and
  • who is (or may be) unable to take care of themselves or protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation.


This information was published in November 2017. We will revise it in 2018.

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