Coercion is a subjective response to a particular intervention and has been considered an unfortunate but necessary part of the care of people with psychiatric illness. Its ethical underpinnings, evidence base and clinical implications are not commonly considered in day-to-day care; however, this requires reconsideration as the potential for an increase in coercion stretches beyond the boundaries of the hospital into the community. Much of the research that has been undertaken highlights the prevalence of coercion, the ‘grey zone’ between compulsory interventions and the experience of patients and patient outcomes in the light of coercion. Policy makers need to consider the evidence for interventions that increase the experience of coercion in order to reduce its impact. Clinicians need to understand the principles of procedural justice, minimise the use of legal detention and be mindful that implied consent for one intervention may lead to experiences of coercion involving linked management strategies.