Statutory authority for retaking absconders from mental hospitals has existed ever since county asylums (the forerunners of mental hospitals) were first built in the nineteenth century. Today under the Mental Health Act, 1983 that ‘right’ can be exercised by the police, mental hospital staff, approved social workers, etc. This article looks at jurisprudential aspects of that ‘right’. It points out that ‘right’ actually means ‘power’ (not ‘privilege’, ‘claim’ or ‘immunity’). In addition it argues that the Mental Health Act, 1983 does only confer a power (rather than impose a duty) to retake absconders from mental hospitals and that there should not be statutory or other imposition of such a duty.