Mental health in policing and police custody
The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee held 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.
During two Senedd Committee inquiries ( and ), Members of the Senedd heard from police representatives that an increasing amount of police resource is being used on managing mental health crises.
Mental health and policing
The 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.
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).
Date, Agenda and Minutes
1. Healthcare Inspectorate Wales
Kate Chamberlain, Chief Executive, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales
Rhys Jones, Head of Escalation and Enforcement, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales
2. National Chief Police Council
Assistant Chief Constable Jonathon Drake, Regional Lead for the National Chief Police Council
3. Representatives of Local Health Boards
Richard Jones, Head of Clinical Innovation and Strategy, Hywel Dda University Health Board
Ian Wile, Director of Operations for Mental Health, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
Philip Lewis, Head of Mental Health Nursing, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
Dr Chris O’Connor, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and the Divisional Director for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
4. Chair of the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordant Assurance Group
Sara Moseley, Chair of the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat Assurance Group
5. Welsh Government
Vaughan Gething AM, Minister for Health and Social Services
Joanna Jordan, Director of Mental Health, NHS Governance & Corporate Services, Welsh Government
Matt Downton, Head of Mental Health and Vulnerable Groups, Welsh Government
Business type: Committee Inquiry
Reason considered: Senedd Business;
First published: 13/02/2019
- Report - Mental health in policing and police custody PDF 749 KB
- Welsh Government Response - 10 December 2019 PDF 2 MB
- Letter from Chair of Health, Social Care and Sport Committee to Chair of Children, Young People and Education Committee - 11 February 2018 PDF 100 KB
- Additional information from the National Police Chiefs Council - 4 April 2019 PDF 13 KB
- Additional information from Welsh Government - 16 May 2019 PDF 571 KB
- Mental health in policing and police custody (completed)