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Fall in use of police cells for those in mental health crisis is welcomed

September 9, 2016
Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe

New figures showing significant falls in the use of police custody as a place of safety for people experiencing a mental health crisis have been welcomed by Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Philip Seccombe.

Data released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council shows that, across England and Wales, the use of police cells as a place of safety under section 136 of the Mental Health Act had more than halved in 2015/16, while more people are being taken first to a health-based place of safety than ever before – up by 37.3%.  The figures also show that, overall, people were detained to protect their own and others’ safety on more than 23,000 occasions across England and Wales last year.

Across Warwickshire, there were 250 detentions by police using s.136 in 2015/16, with all bar 11 being taken first time to a health-based place of safety.  This represents a reduction of 45% on the number of people who were detained in police custody during 2014/15. No children or young people under 18 were taken to police custody when detained under s.136 in either year.

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “The figures provide a real snapshot of the role that mental health plays in many of the incidents that police are called to deal with and demonstrate the continued need to ensure that appropriate help and support is in place to help people and avoid situations reaching a crisis point.

“Having the right professional assessment and medical support as soon as possible is hugely important to ensuring the well-being of people in crisis and the safety of the wider public.  A police custody block, however, is not the right place for someone who is suffering a mental health crisis. It is always the case that a health-based place of safety is a much more suitable environment and the agencies in Warwickshire have been working hard to ensure that such facilities are available.

“These new figures are encouraging and show that real progress has been made.  I am pleased with the reductions in the use of police custody overall – from already low numbers – and in particular with the fact that all children and young people under 18 detained under s.136 were taken to health-based places of safety.  Ultimately we must continue to work hard with our colleagues in health and social care to ensure that this is the outcome for all adults as well.  It is equally important that there are not long waiting periods for admission or assessment, so that is something I am looking to see further progress made on this year,” added Mr Seccombe.