We recently posted a blog about a client of the firm who had been detained, naked in a police cell for hours whilst suffering terrible mental health difficulties.
His case was one of a number of such cases that have come through our doors in the last few months.
The purpose of the blog was to highlight that the Police are not adequately trained to deal with people in such distress and sometimes what happens to the individual is that they are treated as though they were a criminal. The blog is critical of the Police:
The blog quotes a BBC Freedom of Information request which shows a shocking picture:
Our blog created a good deal of interest particularly from @mentalhealthcop (Twitter handle). Michael Brown as he is known outside the Twittersphere is an Inspector from West Midlands Police. At present he is seconded to the College Of Policing and is the Mental Health Co-ordinator for Police Chiefs in England and Wales. He is pre-eminent in the field and his work is widely respected.
In the response that he posted on his Twitter feed he indicated that the statistics on the use of police stations for those detained under Section 136 shows a fall. That is not disputed by us and is welcomed.
We know that Section 136 is about to be expanded so that all public and private places except dwellings are places where the power can be used. That is a concern to us as we are not convinced that the Police are ready for this nor indeed are they adequately trained to deal with it. Indeed @mentalhealthcop seems to be concerned too
Our blog caused him concern because of “the lack of insight in this article, which is way short of a full understanding, or at least explanation, of the relevant issues that create the conditions and objections that you have.”
Perhaps our blog was not long enough or detailed enough and for that we apologise.
Broudie Jackson Canter is committed to making a difference for its clients. That is a high aim – we have departments which come across and deal with Mental Health Issues every day of the week. Our teams in Inquests, Housing, Community Care, Family, Actions against the Police, Immigration and Crime all work to defend the most vulnerable in our society. We have a department dedicated to working with those detained under the Mental Health Act.
We try and make a difference in the lives of the people we meet and take things a step further. We don’t necessarily put this on the blog or the newsfeed.
In the Actions Against the Police department, as a result of the increase in the number of cases involving our mentally unwell clients in custody, we made a Freedom of Information requests to the Police forces of Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and Lancashire. We asked the following questions :-
- Is there a policy in relation to the detention in Police Custody of those suffering from mental health problems?
- Does the Force provide training to their officers in relation to the detention of those suffering from mental health problems?
- Is there a Force policy in relation to the removal of clothing from people held in Police custody who have a mental health problem?
The responses have trickled in – we asked the Metropolitan Police too but they haven’t answered yet.
According to the College of Policing every force should have a policy on Mental Health
“A force policy on mental health also ensures that services which operate across multiple health commissioners and providers establish basic minimum requirements to determine the police contribution to any local agreement with other providers.”
Merseyside Police do, it is three pages long. 
Lancashire and Greater Manchester Police do not have a policy.
North Wales Police have a Protocol in relation to the use of Section 136 Mental Health Act power which is agreed with their local NHS Trust which is good. There is no Policy on Mental Health as such.
Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire all provide their officers with training and we were sent some of their training materials. They vary significantly one from the other.
North Wales told us that they are reviewing their delivery of Mental Health Training following the launch of a Mental Health Authorised Professional Practice (APP) by the College Of Policing.
We had been particularly concerned in the case highlighted by the blog that our client had not had any proper assessment of the risk that he posed before his clothing was removed and then he was allowed to remain naked in the cell. (He had been given a smock but then seemingly never actively encouraged to put it on.)
The College of Policing makes it clear
“Officers should make the decision to remove such items after conducting a risk assessment. The custody officer must balance any risk with the need to treat detainees with dignity.”
In our FOI request Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire all referred back to this policy. Oddly North Wales did not.
In our local region our very limited survey has revealed a wide variance of commitment to making sure that those with mental health issues are treated consistently in Police custody. We raise the issue that something needs to be done.
Our power and influence to effect change is very limited.
We are a firm of solicitors who act on our client’s instructions. When we see that there is something wrong and an injustice has been perpetrated against them we will put their case without fear or favour. We will go the extra mile because it is not just about the money.
We bring complaints in order to effect change. We challenge actions and inaction in order to make a difference.