Custody ban for 'vulnerable' people

PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 June 2016

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People suffering from a mental health crisis in Weston will no longer be housed in police cells, after changes by Avon and Somerset Constabulary were introduced last week.

The new rules, which came into effect on June 1, mean people detained under the Mental Health Act will only be held in police cells in ‘exceptional’ circumstances – which is only when their behaviour would be deemed as posing an unmanageably high risk to other people if they were to be detained in a healthcare setting.

People aged 18 and under experiencing a crisis should also never be held in police custody, according to the constabulary.

Police detained 260 people across the force area under the Mental Health Act from December 2014-15, but some 75 per cent of these people did not present an ‘unmanageable’ risk in a healthcare setting.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens described the process of detaining those in crisis as ‘outdated’ and said she was ‘proud’ to see the changes come into effect.

She said: “I believe that police cells are not a place to detain someone experiencing mental health crisis.

“I’m proud to say that the police, clinical commissioning groups and the mental health trusts covering Avon and Somerset are all focused on improving care.

“Along with other initiatives we are planning alongside our partners, I am hopeful that we will now only see police custody used for those experiencing crisis in truly ‘exceptional circumstances’, putting an end to this outdated practice.”

A spokesman for the constabulary added: “We have been working with health partners since 2015 in preparation for these changes.

“We have defined processes and identified alternatives to ensure vulnerable people are taken to a health-based place of safety, and agreed a joint escalation process to be followed if one is not available.”

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