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Section 38 – Interim hospital order

Why am I on a Section 38?

A Court has convicted you but not yet decided on your sentence. The reason you have not yet been sentenced is that two doctors advised the court that you have a mental health problem and you may need treatment in hospital.

You have been sent to hospital where the doctors will assess you to see whether a Section 37 is appropriate or whether you should go to prison.

A court and two doctors one who is Section 12 approved and has specialist experience in the treatment and diagnosis of mental illness and the second from the hospital where you will be receiving treatment put you on the section.

How long does it last and what happens next?

Section 38 lasts for a period specified by the court which cannot be more than 12 weeks, and can be renewed by the court for further periods of 28 days at a time, and cannot remain in force for more than 12 months.

The doctors will see how you respond to treatment and will advise the court on what should happen next. The court may decide to put you on a section 37 or they may decide to send you to prison.

Can I be medicated against my will?

Yes. Medicine can be given to you with or without your consent. However, your consent will always be sought. Your responsible clinician and other hospital staff will talk to you about any medicine that you need for your mental health problem.

After three months, if you do not want the medicine you are being given, an independent doctor called a SOAD (Second Opinion Appointed Doctor) will talk to you and to staff who know you. They will decide what medicine you can be given and except in an emergency, no other medicine can be given to you without your agreement.

Can I get leave?

No. You cannot be given leave while you are on a Section 38.

How can I appeal?

You can appeal to the Crown Court or Court of Appeal to have the conviction quashed or a different sentence imposed. If you want to do this you must do it quickly and it is best to have a solicitor to help you. Ask the hospital staff or an advocate for further information.

What are my rights?

You have certain rights when you are in hospital. These include the right to:

  • Information about your section and the reasons for detention
  • Information about consent to treatment
  • Information on how to obtain the help and support of an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)
  • Correspondence and visitors
  • Information on how to make a complaint
  • Information about safeguarding
  • Information about the Care Quality Commission

The Mental Health Act 1983 Code of Practice

The MHA Code of Practice should be followed by professionals who are involved in your care and treatment. The Code of Practice provides guidance to health professionals about the MHA and is also intended to be helpful to you, your family, carers, representatives, friends, advocates and anyone else who supports you. A copy of the code should be available on the ward for you to see.