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If someone is taken by the police to a hospital for a psychiatric examination, how long will they be in the hospital?

Once a person is taken to a hospital for a psychiatric examination, the doctor who examines them must decide within three days (72 hours) whether to release them, or keep them in the hospital for a longer period of time. Until the doctor makes a decision, they are not free to leave the hospital.

If the examining doctor decides the person is not a danger to themselves or anyone else, the person will be released from the hospital, and if they have not been charged with a criminal offence, released from police custody too. This may happen soon after the person is brought to the hospital or it may take the entire three days. If they’ve been charged with a criminal offence, the police will decide to either release the person on an appearance notice [PDF] or a promise to appear [PDF] or hold them for bail.

If the examining doctor decides the person is still a danger to themselves or others, the doctor may keep the person in the hospital for longer than three days. In this situation, the person should be given access to a “rights advisor” who can explain the person’s rights, and may assist in getting a lawyer who deals with mental health law.