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Fall in use of police custody for those in mental health crisis

08 Jun 2015

Data collected from police forces across England and Wales shows that there has been a reduction in the use of police custody as a place of safety for people detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

The data, which was collected by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Lead for Mental Health and Policing, Commander Christine Jones, records the figure falling from 6,667 incidents in 2013/14 to 4,537 in 2014/15 (32% reduction).

In addition:

  • The number of times people aged under 18 were taken to police custody as a place of safety under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act fell from 256 in 2013/14 to 161 in 2014/15 (37% reduction).
  • The total use of Section 136 by police officers fell from 26,137 in 3013/14 to 23,602 in 2014/15 (9.7% reduction).

It follows an announcement from the Government stating that it would legislate to prohibit the use of police cells as places of safety for those under 18 and reduce the current 72 hour maximum detention period for adults.

The Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat, launched in February 2014, committed national organisations to working together locally in order to stop the use of police stations as places of safety, apart from in exceptional circumstances.

NPCC Lead for Mental Health and Policing, Commander Christine Jones, said:

“People experiencing a mental health crisis are not criminals. Nor are police officers and staff medical professionals. Those who are urgently unwell, whether physically or mentally, should be taken to a health-based setting to receive the right care and support.

“It’s unacceptable for anyone, of any age, to end up in a police cell because the appropriate mental health services are not available.

“The data published today shows that the message is getting through. By working more effectively with local partners, and improving understanding across the service, we are helping to reduce the number of vulnerable people being detained in police custody under the Mental Health Act. However, there is much more to be done and we will need support from other agencies if we are to achieve our end goal.”

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“These figures show encouraging progress is being made by forces and their health partners across England and Wales, but in some areas there is still a long way to go to improve outcomes for people with mental health needs.

“The Home Secretary is clear that the right place for a person suffering a mental health crisis is a bed, not a police cell, and the right people to look after them are medically trained professionals, not police officers.

“That is why we have already announced measures to reduce the amount of time the police spend dealing with people suffering from mental health issues, while ensuring these people still receive the support they need at a time of crisis.

“The Government will also provide £15m of new funding to deliver health-based places of safety in England and a guarantee that no person with mental health problems will be detained by the police due to the lack of a suitable alternative.”

Data can be found here