Hampshire police hits pledge over mental health cell use

  • Hampshire police pledged to not detain anyone in cells under Mental Health Act in April
  • Force meets that target as Home Secretary pledges £15m to set up places of safety
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HAMPSHIRE police has met its target to not detain anyone with mental health problems in custody.

Simon Hayes, Hampshire’s police and crime comissioner, said three places of safety had now been set up to act as alternatives to police cells.

It comes as home secretary Theresa May yesterday committed £15m to fund such alternatives across the nation.

Mr Hayes, pictured, said: ‘We’ve worked hard with partners outside of the police.’

No one was detained in a cell under the Mental Health Act in the months of April.

Last year the force held a 17-year-old girl for 63 hours and 40 minutes in a police cell under the Mental Health Act, The Independent reported.

In 2012/13 there were 600 people with mental health problems kept in Hampshire cells. That dropped to 400 in 2013/14 and the force said it would keep the figure to fewer than 100 in 2014/15, and pledged to have none from April 1.

Speaking at the Police Federation conference, the home secretary said new funding will be made available from the Department of Health to the NHS to work in partnership with police and crime commissioners.

She said: ‘The right place for a person suffering a mental health crisis is a bed, not a police cell. And the right people to look after them are medically trained professionals, not police officers.’

In 2014/15, as many as 21,995 people in England and Wales were sectioned under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, of which at least a fifth were detained in a police cell.

Estimates suggest police spend between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of their time dealing with people with mental health issues.

Laws to reform the use of Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act will be included in the Police and Sentencing Bill, which will be outlined in the Queen’s Speech next week.

Proposals include stopping anyone under 18 being detained in a cell under Sections 135 or 136, only using police cells if an adult’s behaviour is so extreme it cannot be managed, reducing the 72-hour maximum period of detention and allowing other places – other than cells or health-based settings – to be designated as places of safety.