I’ve been told I’m a Nearest Relative. What does this mean?
Mental Health lawyer Emma Silburn explains
Everyone detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA) has someone called their ‘Nearest Relative’. Who this person is set out in law. If you are married it will be your husband/wife or if you have been living with a partner for at least 6 months it will be them. There is a list which dictates who the Nearest Relative is and if you are unsure you should consult a solicitor.
Being someone’s Nearest Relative can be a double-edged sword for some people. Whilst it brings rights, it also brings responsibilities and if you feel like this is a role you would rather not have then you can delegate your rights/responsibilities to another person. This can be particularly so when you feel that your loved one needs to remain in hospital and they do not.
If you are the Nearest Relative you should be informed within a reasonable time if your loved-one is to be detained under section 2 MHA and should be consulted if the clinical team wish to detain your loved one under section 3. You can object to this happening but then court proceedings could be issued to remove you as the Nearest Relative and take away your power to object. If you find yourself in this situation you should consult a solicitor.
Sometimes the detained person may ask that information isn’t shared with you. In these circumstances it is normal for you to be given only as much information as you need to exercise your rights under the MHA.
You can apply for your loved-one to be discharged from detention under the MHA by following a specified procedure and giving 72 hours’ notice and you should be provided with information about this.
We understand that when someone you care about is detained under the MHA that it is a difficult time for both of you. If you need someone to help make the law a bit clearer then please email Deb.O’Dowd@davidgray.co.uk , telephone 0191 232 9547 or Chat Live on our website www.davidgray.co.uk