Sheffield MP's call for change over locking up of mentally ill people

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh is calling for a review of how police deal with mentally ill people as it is "unacceptable" so many are being locked up.

Monday, 11th December 2017, 7:26 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 4:09 pm
Louise Haigh MP.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said police forces across the UK are arresting people needing mental health care more than 2000 times a year.

It is illegal for police to hold people in custody without charge for more than 24 hours but data from the College of Policing showed 264 incidents in the last year where people were held for longer when they were judged to need mental health treatment.

The NPCC said some people have been held in police cells for as long as several days because no hospital beds were available for them.

Louise Haigh MP is calling for changes in how people with mental health issues are dealt with and said: "They (the police) are forced into an impossible decision between having to let someone go and be a risk to themselves or to the public - or break the law and be held responsible for that if they have to detain them in a police cell. That is just completely unacceptable.

"The NHS and mental health services and care can always say 'we don't have enough beds' or 'we're not going to take this person in'.

"The police don't have that ability to say no. There's nowhere else for that person to go after that but they are then stuck in the position of having to deal with them when they are not the appropriate agency."

The Labour MP added: "I know that mental health is one of the biggest demands on the police at the moment - 83 per cent of calls to the police control room are not associated with crime and the vast majority of those are associated with mental health.

"It's putting strain on the police as a public service but it's also putting massive strain on the police officers themselves and the stress and intensity of having to deal with these people that the police aren't properly trained for is having a huge impact.

"It's a shocking reflection on the provision of mental health services in our country."

A Government spokesperson said: "Since we reviewed the use of police custody for Mental Health Act detentions we have seen a 90 per cent reduction in England in the number of people being held in custody who should be in NHS care, and Wales has had similar success.

"But we are determined to go further, which is why the Health Secretary asked Sir Simon Wessely to lead an Independent Review of the Act as a whole, and make recommendations for improvements — in both the law and in practice. Sir Simon will produce his interim report in spring 2018."