People with mental health problems are having their rights to healthcareÂ ignored and are being treated worse than criminals according to a newÂ report.Â The joint review, entitled ‘A Criminal Use of Police cells?’ wasÂ carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), HerÂ Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP), the Healthcare InspectorateÂ Wales and the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The shocking findings include evidence that there were 9,000 incidences in 2011-12 of people experiencing a mental health crisis being detained in police custody as a ‘place of safety’, rather than a health setting.
The report also reveals that in over 80 per cent of cases the reason forÂ detention in a police cell was that the person had either attemptedÂ suicide or self-harm, or indicated that they were thinking of doing so.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis they need care andÂ support, not to be treated like they are a criminal. Often the reasonÂ that someone is detained by police is because they have attempted toÂ take their own life so a police cell is a completely inappropriateÂ environment and would be a terrifying experience for someone who isÂ already distressed and confused.Â
This report echoes the findings of ourÂ recent campaign on physical restraint in healthcare settings, whichÂ highlighted that people in a mental health crisis need help not harm. Â Â Â
It is outrageous that suspected criminals can be released sooner from custody than people with mental health problems, who are simply unwell. Â Â Â Â
At present, people with mental health problems can be detained inÂ custody for a maximum of 72 hours whereas those arrested for a crime canÂ only be held for a maximum of 24 hours before having to be released orÂ charged. We welcome the call for this to be brought in line, however,Â police cells should only ever be used as a place of safety as a lastÂ resort when all other options have been exhausted.
Last month the Independent Commission on Mental Health and PolicingÂ published a report recommending comprehensive mandatory mental healthÂ training for police officers. While many officers do treat people withÂ mental health problems with dignity and compassion, we also know thatÂ police do not always have the skills required to provide the care andÂ support that people with mental health problems need in theseÂ situations.Â
We need to see more training and better multi-agency workingÂ agreements so that police can work in partnership with local hospitals,Â mental health liaison officers, and outreach teams.”
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Nearest Railway Station: Elephant & Castle
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