ARE PRISON CELLS THE BEST PLACE FOR THE MENTALLY UNWELL?

Written 9th October 2013 by Olliers Solicitors

A recent BBC Panorama Programme “Locked up for being ill?” highlighted the growing concern across Police forces in England, that Police cells are being used to detain the mentally ill and are wholly unsuitable.

Mental Health Act 1983

Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 ‘allows a constable to remove an apparently mentally disordered person from a public place to a place of safety for up to 72 hours for the specified purposes. The place of safety could be a Police Station or hospital.’

Frequent instances of self harm and suicide attempts see the Police stretched to their limits. The Association of Chief Police Officers state dealing with the mentally unwell now takes up to a fifth of Police time.

Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis, says:

“I think as long as there is an option to have a Police Station cell as a back-up then they will always be used and I think until you get to the stage where you actually say no, enough is enough, then Police Station cells should stop being used per se.

“If there are no spaces at the mental health unit, then my belief is that an accident or emergency unit at a local hospital must be a better place than a police station.”

Working Relationships

Care minister Norman Lamb calls for a better working relationship with the Police and the mental health professionals.

“It shouldn’t be about Police just saying we’re just going to take them, march them into an A&E department and abdicate our responsibility. That’s not the right way.

“It should be Police together with mental health, reaching a conclusion about what is in that patient’s best interests.”

Panorama “Locked up for being ill?” – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03b59yw

Stacey Mabrouk

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