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Police Custody 'Unsuitable' For Mentally Ill

Armen Hareyan's picture
Mentally Ill in Police

The IPCC says police custody is an unsuitable for people who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Arrangements for dealing with people detained by the police because they may be mentally ill have been condemned as "intolerable" by watchdogs.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said more than 11,500 people were held in police cells under the Mental Health Act in just one year. In comparison, just 5,900 were taken to hospital in the same period.

The IPCC called for new facilities to be set up for people believed to have a mental disorder so that fewer end up in police stations.

IPCC commissioner Ian Bynoe said: "Police custody is an unsuitable environment for someone with mental illness and may make their condition worse, particularly if they are not dealt with quickly, appropriately and don't receive the care they need.

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"Someone whose distress or strange behaviour causes the police concern needs rapid medical and social assessment in a safe environment.

"It is therefore intolerable that even though it has been Government policy since 1990 that a hospital is the preferred place of safety for such an assessment, our research shows that twice as many people are detained in police custody as in a more fitting hospital environment."

He added: "The continued use of cells not only diverts police resources from fighting crime, but criminalises behaviour which is not a crime. A police cell should only be used when absolutely necessary, for example when someone is violent, and not as a convenience."

One police force, Sussex, showed far higher rates of detention under mental health laws than other forces, with 277 per 10,000 detentions. In comparison, there was just one per 10,000 in both the Cheshire and Merseyside forces.

When compared to the general population the rate of detention for black people in England and Wales was almost twice (1.7 times) as high than for white people, the IPCC found.

Alternative places of safety were more readily available and more commonly used in low rate and some medium rate forces, the IPCC found. And it recommended that the NHS should work with relevant organisations to develop alternative places of safety to police custody, such as dedicated spaces in hospital emergency departments and psychiatric units.

Reported by Police Oracle, Copyright.