This short article presents a scenario where physical force has been used and invites the reader to consider whether or not it was lawful in the circumstances and to draw appropriate conclusions.

The Scenario

A female, aged 20, who had a history of mental ill health, violence and self-harming presented at the Emergency Department of a city centre hospital and explained that she was experiencing voices in her head that are ‘ordering’ her to seriously hurt herself.

The triage nurse calls for security and two Security Officers attend the ED.

With the female’s agreement they go to an ‘assessment’ room to await the arrival of an AMHP to conduct a formal MH assessment.

After a short while, the female began to repeatedly ask to go outside for a cigarette.

The Security Officers explained they could not facilitate that until after the AMHP has conducted their assessment. The Security Officers informed her that their duty was to keep her safe and they could not permit her to leave.

As soon as the AMHP arrived, the female snatched his glasses off his face and screamed: “Right, either I can have a smoke right now or you are going to need some f**king new glasses! What’s it going to be?”

The AMHP didn’t hesitate. He immediately and seemingly instinctively took hold of the female by her wrist and forcefully bent her thumb back momentarily, so that he could get his glasses back and, on retrieving them, he stepped away from her.

The female cried out in pain and shouted: “You’ve broken my f**king thumb you c**t!”

The Security Officers quickly arranged for her injury to be examined by a nurse and although her thumb was in fact not broken, she had sustained a nasty sprain (stretched ligaments).

So, was the AMHP’s use of physical force including causing pain in order to ‘rescue’ his property lawful or has he assaulted the female?

If you know the right answer great! But, if you are unsure, please do give us a call on 01202 773736.