The Nearest Relative

What is the nearest relative?

Your nearest relative is a person who has rights under the Mental Health Act 1983, when their relative is detained. It is usually the closest, oldest, member of a person’s family. The nearest relative is dictated by the Mental Health Act, but a person can formally change who their nearest relative is in certain circumstances.

Rights of the nearest relative

The nearest relative has the power in certain circumstances to:

  • Object to and prevent a patient or proposed patient being detained under section
  • Direct a patient’s discharge on 72 hours’ notice
  • Apply to the mental health tribunal

If a patient consents, the nearest relative also has the right to certain information about the patient’s detention and should be consulted in relation to certain matters.

Displacement of nearest relative

There are some circumstances in which a nearest relative can be “displaced.” This usually means the local authority believes the nearest relative isn’t an appropriate person to carry out the role. The county court can order that the nearest relative be displaced in favour of the local authority, or another person.

Usually such applications are because the nearest relative has been deemed to have objected “unreasonably” to a patient’s detention under section 3.

MJC Law can advise and represent nearest relatives if an application has been made to the county court to displace them. Legal aid may be available in some circumstances.