Submission to independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody
In July 2015 the Home Secretary announced an independent review to examine the procedures and processes surrounding deaths and serious incidents in police custody. This review is being conducted by the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC
The key points in our response are as follows:
- Mental ill-health is a common characteristic amongst individuals who die in, or shortly following, police custody (Police Custody as a “Place of Safety”, IPCC, 2008). As recommended in that report and more recently in CQC’s report on NHS mental health crisis care, Right Here, Right Now (June 2015), well-informed and appropriate commissioning of mental health crisis care services and qualified personnel at local level are critical to ensuring that:
- police cells are not used as places of safety for people detained under s.136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) in all but the most essential and unavoidable circumstances and;
- that, in such circumstances, access to approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) and medical personnel are facilitated as the highest priority
- People with severe and enduring mental illness who end up in police custody do so often because they have ‘fallen through the gaps’ of the system or face barriers to accessing high quality mental health crisis care when they need it.
- The recommendations of the NHS England Mental Health Taskforce, the Royal College of Psychiatrics Commission in to Acute Adult Psychiatric Care, the aforementioned CQC report on crisis care, the Crisis Care Concordat and the aforementioned IPCC report on mental health and police custody all emphasise the necessity of ensuring appropriate commissioning and resourcing of mental health crisis services and mental health professionals to ensure that individuals have timely access to help in appropriate settings.