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22 Mental Health
12. Mental health and The Human Rights Act
The Human Rights Act 1998 is an important, wide-ranging law that came into effect in 2000. It says all public authorities must act in a way that fits with the European Convention of Human Rights. Among the rights that could affect you are the 'right to liberty', the 'right to respect for private and family life' and the right to a fair trial. The Act applies to NHS trusts and also to independent hospitals where people are detained under the Mental Health Act.
The Human Rights Act has brought about some important changes to the Mental Health Act. For example, it has led to a change in the rules for identifying the nearest relative so that gay and lesbian partners are treated in the same way as people who are married or in heterosexual relationships.
A recent court case at the European Court of Human Rights may also lead to changes in the law on how and when people with a mental disorder can be admitted to hospital for their mental disorder when they lack the capacity to agree to this. See 'What about people who lack the capacity to agree to be detained?'.
See also the CLS Direct leaflet, 'The Human Rights Act' for more information.
This leaflet is published by the Legal Services Commission (LSC). It was written in association with Camilla Parker, and independent consultant specialising in mental health law and policy.
The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since they were printed so the information in them may be incorrect or out of date.
Leaflet Version: November 2019
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