Police and mental health

Explains when you may have contact with the police, what happens if you are arrested and what your rights are if you are taken to the police station. Applies to England and Wales.

Your stories

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

Mental illness and violence

Marion Janner on substance abuse, stigma and sense of self.

Posted on 01/03/2010

Crisis care in Wales

Sara blogs about the changes to crisis care in Wales resulting from the Crisis Care Concordat.

Sara Moseley
Posted on 17/05/2017

What happens after questioning?

What happens next depends on your situation. This page covers the following options:

The police don’t charge you

The investigation could finish without you being charged, in one of the following ways:

  • No further action (NFA). If there is not enough evidence the police may decide not to charge you and no further action will be taken. This may show up on a security check if you are applying for job that requires a DBS check.
  • Caution. You may be offered a caution or have to pay a fine if you admit the charge and the offence was minor. These will go on your criminal record and will show up on a DBS check when applying for a job.
  • Fixed penalty notice / penalty notice for disorder. You may have to pay a fine if you admit the charge and the offence was minor. These will go on your criminal record and will show up on a DBS check when applying for a job.
  • Go to hospital. You may go to hospital either as a voluntary patient or sectioned under the Mental Health Act. The police could continue to investigate even if you are in hospital, or they could decide to drop the case.

The police investigate the case

While police are investigating the case, but before they have charged you with an offence, one of the following things might happen:

  • You are released on bail. This means you may have to return to the police station at a later date. Also there may be conditions that you need to follow, for example to live at a named address. You may be arrested again if you don’t comply with these conditions. The police can only release you on bail if it is ‘necessary and proportionate’. If not you must be released without bail. You can only be kept on bail for 28 days after arrest without being charged, but this can be extended to three months in complex cases.
  • You are released under investigation (often referred to as 'RUI'). This is different to being released on bail as you will not have to comply with any conditions.

You are charged with an offence

After investigating the case the police and the Crown Prosecution will decide whether to charge you with an offence.

For information what happens after you are charged see our legal pages on mental health and the courts.


Harry is a 68 year old with no previous history of mental health problems and no criminal history. He was arrested for assaulting a stranger.

At the police station he was assessed by the appropriate healthcare practitioner (AHCP). The AHCP raised concerns but thought he was well enough to be interviewed and kept in a police cell. The custody sergeant spoke to the liaison and diversion team who carried out a Mental Health Act assessment, and he was detained under section 2 for assessment. He was diagnosed with dementia with psychotic symptoms.

In light of him being sectioned he was not interviewed, and the police decided to take no further action in relation to the assault. His local community mental health team (CMHT) provided support once he was discharged into the community.

This information was published in November 2017. We will revise it in 2019.

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