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Mental Health Law 1939


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The information on this page relates to Guernsey, Channel Islands only

For UK information, please visit above links


Guernsey will become a signatory to the European Human Rights Legislation (see Article 5 'Rights to Liberty & Security'), and are in the process of reviewing their 1939 Mental Health Law - it is thought that it will more closely resemble the UK's Mental Health Act, although that too is currently under review.  

At the moment, there are 4 Articles of the Mental Health Law which are in common use, and allow for a person to be detained involuntarily, for treatment, in the mental health unit:


This order can only be brought about once a patient is an in-patient of the mental health services.  It is usually the Consultant Psychiatrist who recommends the order, although the Consultant is not actively involved in implementing the order.  Two GPs, one of whom should be the person's own GP (the other from another practice) each interview the person, and then sign a form giving their recommendations.  A responsible relative, or a Constable of the Parish, must then also see the person and sign 2 forms.  Those 4 forms are then sent to HM Procurer who will ratify the order.

Certification is effective for up to one year.  At any time during that year, the Consultant may discharge the person from hospital.  The order can therefore be rescinded.  Sometimes however, the order is left in place following discharge from hospital.  If the person then later becomes unwell again, then they can be brought back into hospital under the order.

If the order is still in place after one year, it may be renewed for a further 2 years, then 3 years, then finally each 5 years. 

As with all the orders, Certification is only effective within the Bailiwick of Guernsey.  However, if a person is transferred to the UK for in-patient treatment, it can be converted to an equivalent UK Mental Health Act section - following a Royal Court decision.  Whilst the order remains valid, the person has no right to vote.

Urgency Order

This order is normally used as an admission order.  When a person requires treatment, but is unwilling to go to hospital voluntarily, then a GP (usually their own) can sign one form.  The other 2 forms are signed by a responsible relative or the Constable of the Parish in which the person then is.  The order is effective for 7 days from the date of signing.  Once the person is in hospital, it can be converted into a Certification order before it expires.

(There is also an Alderney Urgency order  - similar to the ordinary Urgency order, but implemented by 2 Jurats of the Alderney Court, signed by a GP, and effective for 72 hours from admission in Guernsey Mental Health unit)

Police Urgency

A police officer can recommend that a person requires admission to hospital, and they then ask a GP (normally the Police Surgeon) to sign the necessary form. It is effective for 7 days from date of admission to hospital.

Article 31.5

The person must be a voluntary in-patient of the Mental Health Unit.  This is the only order which requires the active involvement of the Consultant Psychiatrist.  It is signed only by the Consultant, and is effective for 72 hours from signing.  Like the Urgency orders, it may then be converted to a Certification order (going through the proper procedure as above for Certification)



Human Rights

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights & Fundamental Freedoms

Human Rights Act 1998   (UK)

Human Rights Unit (UK)

European Human Rights Foundation

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


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17 March 2002