Your rights if you go missing

When something big happens in your life, it’s important to know your rights, and to understand the legal side of things. Being ‘missing’ is no different. We hope that whether you are currently away, or thinking of leaving, this information can help you work out what’s best for you.

It is not illegal to go missing

If you are over 18, you are not breaking the law by going missing. However, the police will want to make sure you are safe. Read more about this here.

Consider your formal responsibilities

If you have responsibility to care for a child or someone else and you don’t make arrangements before you leave, there may be difficult repercussions. Think about the people who depend on you, and how they could be looked after if you’re not around

Your right to not be found

The police will need to make sure you are safe and well. They do this by meeting you in person. Once they have done this, they can close their investigation, however they will not force you to go home, or tell people where you are.

Your rights under the Mental Health Act

You may be sectioned under the Mental Health Act – meaning you have to stay somewhere that you can get treatment. We know this can be a very difficult thing to go through. It should be done by the appropriate health professionals, and you should be told what is happening. We are not experts in Mental Health law, but you can find out about different processes, and your rights, from Mind.

Your right to privacy online

Until the police can confirm you are safe and well, they will do their best to find you. This might include sharing your missing appeal online. If you have had a safe and well check, they should remove all of their public information relating to your missing episode, but some may stay online and appear in searches. Read more about your ‘Right to be Forgotten’ to discover what steps you can take to make sure your appeal is taken down.

Your rights around accommodation

You may have had to go missing due to losing your accommodation. Or, you might be struggling to find alternative accommodation because of leaving. If accommodation is a problem, be sure to get advice on your housing rights from an organisation like Shelter

Talk to us

If you are away from home, or thinking of leaving, and you are worried about what might happen or what your rights are, get in touch with our team.

Talk to us

Sign up to be a Digital Search Hero

We have launched a regular email so that you can be aware of new missing person appeals and share them far and wide! We are also calling on all Heroes to be the eyes and ears for Missing People on the ground. Your sighting of a missing person could make a difference in a crucial time.