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1 - Legislation relevant to the management of violence by persons with mental disorders

  • pp 1-8


This chapter provides an overview of the legislative frameworks that are relevant to the management of violence by persons with mental disorders in the UK. As three jurisdictions apply (England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland), individual frameworks and their variants are not discussed in detail. Rather, substantial differences relevant to the management of violence are highlighted. Professionals should refer to the respective frameworks for detailed guidance.

Management of violence refers not only to acute episodes, but also to the prevention or reduction of the risk of future violence. The core principles guiding routine medical practice of ‘consent’ and ‘do no harm’ remain relevant. Legislation provides a framework when coercion may be necessary to manage an acute violent act, manage the immediate risk of further violence or manage longer-term risk of violence.

Three strands of legislation are relevant to this report: the Human Rights Act 1998, mental health acts and mental capacity acts. The Human Rights Act applies to all three jurisdictions. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Mental Health Act 1983 apply to England and Wales. Scotland is covered by the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000. Mental health legislation in Northern Ireland comprises the Mental Health (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2004. In certain circumstances, common law ‘duty of care’ may also be relied on, which remains necessary in Northern Ireland and which does not yet have an equivalent to the Mental Capacity Act.

Human Rights Act 1998

Compliance with the Human Rights Act is required when a function is of a public nature. The Act requires public authorities to act in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which came into force in 1953. The Act would, for example, apply to the NHS and local authorities. It recognises certain rights and freedoms, with the ECHR hearing alleged breaches. The Act serves to allow UK citizens to seek redress in the UK regarding possible contraventions without having to apply immediately to the ECHR.

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