“I am not a criminal. I had done nothing wrong”.
Having been a solicitor now for nearly thirty years I have heard that a lot. However, over the last two years, or so, there appears to have been a rise in the number of cases where my clients have been detained in Police Stations in troubling circumstances.
I recently brought a claim for Mr A arguing that he should not have been detained in the Police Station as quite clearly what was going on was the symptoms of his mental health, not the result of some sort of public order problem. The Police have paid some compensation to him but that is not the answer to the problem.
The Police are increasingly the first line of response when someone is in a mental health crisis. This cannot be correct. The Police are not trained or adequately resourced to deal with those who suffer from mental health issues. We are currently dealing with cases where clients have their clothing removed for “safety” reasons and were left naked; where they are not given their rights; where they are not given food or drink because they may act dangerously.
The person suffering from a mental health breakdown does not need to have the further humiliation of being detained in a cell and kept there for hours awaiting appropriate treatment.
The problem seems to us to be getting worse. This appears to be backed up by a recent Freedom of Information request that has shown that police in England and Northern Ireland faced nearly 240,000 incidents in 2016 involving mental health issues:
However, in response, a government spokesman said:
"People experiencing mental health crisis need the right care in the right place, not a police cell.
"We're investing £30m in providing more alternative places of safety, have more than halved the number of people detained under a mental health section in a police cell in the last year and are entirely banning the use of police stations for this purpose for under 18s."
This is a good promise but it seems to us there is a danger of losing sight of the fact that individuals are suffering.
We are going to continue to bring complaints and claims for those with Mental Health issues who are mistreated by the Police. We are hopeful that our complaints will ultimately make a difference and that the system will change. A quicker response would be for there to be political will to change the system.
If you or a loved one has been wrongfully detained by the police, or you believe you have received treatment by the police which was not lawful, our expert team of Actions Against Police solicitors can help. Call today on 0333 321 4580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.