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Mental health in policing and police custody

Recieving evidence

The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee is holding a short inquiry into mental health in policing and police custody, to assess how effectively police forces in Wales are working with partners to prevent vulnerable people with mental health problems going into police custody, and how effectively police forces in Wales identify and respond to those detained in police custody.

While overall responsibility for policing is non-devolved, the police respond to a wide range of possible situations, including safeguarding vulnerable people suffering from mental health problems. This being the case, it is of paramount importance that police officers and staff – whether on the front line or in custody, work in partnership with devolved agencies such as health and social services to ensure the needs of these vulnerable people are met.

Background

During two recent Assembly Committee inquiries (the Emotional and Mental Health of Children and Young People and Suicide Prevention), Assembly Members have heard from police representatives that an increasing amount of police resource is being used on managing mental health crises.

Mental health and policing

The Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat is a national agreement between health, criminal justice and social care agencies that sets out how services and agencies involved in the care and support of people in a mental health crisis will work together to provide the necessary support. It includes arrangements for more joint work and better information sharing between agencies.

Police custody

Inspections of police custody in Wales have generally found the provision of healthcare to be good. There is also evidence from joint inspections of police custody that partnership working is improving, including joint work to address concerns about people detained under section 136 of the Mental Health Act being taken into custody.

Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 enables a police officer to remove, from a public place, someone who they believe to be suffering from a mental disorder and in need of immediate care and control, and take them to a place of safety – for example, a health or social care facility. In exceptional circumstances (for example if the person’s behaviour would pose an unmanageably high risk to others), the place of safety may be police custody. Section 136 also states that the purpose of detention is to enable the person to be assessed by a doctor and an approved mental health professional (for example a specially trained social worker or nurse), and for the making of any necessary arrangements for treatment or care.

What we know from inspection reports is that some people are being held in custody because they are a risk to themselves or others, not because they have committed a crime. Many of these cases involve children, people with mental health problems, or older people suffering from dementia. The police are almost entirely dependent on other agencies – primarily health and social services – to provide services that divert people with vulnerabilities away from custody, or to provide safeguards when vulnerable people are in custody (such as healthcare, or alternative accommodation for children).

 

Business type: Committee Inquiry

Reason considered: Assembly Business;

First published: 13/02/2019

Decision due: Meeting Date by Health, Social Care and Sport Committee

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