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Police: Justice Delayed, not Denied

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

On August 3rd 2018, Kaylsey Smithen was convicted of the manslaughter of his 46yr old mother, Janice, which took place in Birmingham more than six years earlier. This short post is a little bit of speculation on my part, based only on media reports of the legal process, but which seeks to outline why such a delay can occur and challenge again assumptions that professionals might make about serious mental illness being a barrier to criminal prosecution.

You may remember this case if you follow me on Twitter: at the start of 2018, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust apologised to Mrs Smithen’s family for the standard of care he received prior to her killing. There was some debate arising from the Safeguarding Adults Review about whether the police should have been called to a Mental Health Act assessment and / or whether the police were at fault.

Following his arrest for murder in 2012, shortly after his mother’s body was discovered by the police, he was detained under the Mental Health Act (MHA), having been diagnosed with...

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Police: A Safeguarding Call

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

The recent conclusion of an inquest in to the death in 2016 of Mr Luke Leggatt in Canterbury has given rise to a social media debate amongst police officers about the East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s reaction to Coroner’s process. Mr Leggatt had been taken to the hospital by his brother after taking cocaine and having resisted assessment or any treatment for this, had left the hospital. The police were not called when he walked out and he  tragically died of a heart attack, caused by a fatal level of cocaine toxicity.  Faced with an obvious degree of criticism, the East Kent Hospitals spokesperson announced that they have changed their policy on patients who walk out of A&E to make sure that every such patient is subject to a ‘safeguarding call’ to the police irrespective of any assessment of ongoing risk to that person.

Job done – over to the police.  Settles everything, doesn’t it?  I have at least few dozen questions and observations about this, not least because of how it appears to have been done.

Whilst missing...

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Police: Telephone Triage

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

A curious thing appeared on the internet recently: a preventing future deaths report from the Warwickshire Coroner, which has been sent to the Chief Executive of Birmingham and Solihull’s Mental Health Trust (BSMHfT). It follows the death of a man by suicide, thirteen days after the BSMHfT street triage (ST) scheme had contacted with a man who ended his own life in a hotel. No details were given about why the contact with ST occured in the first place, but we know from the PFD report that it was contact by telephone. Amongst other concerns the Coroner had about record keeping by ST (there was none), point 5 on the PFD leapt off the page at me when I first read this.

  • 5) The purpose of the telephone triage was unclear – it was described as not being a mental health assessment … so what was it, then?!

And if it wasn’t a mental health assessment, what does it mean, if anything, for police officers who have ST schemes across the country where they become involved in police incidents because they believe the person needs MH assessment, often as...

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Police: Acute Intoxication is a Mental Disorder

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

The longer I work on policing and mental health, the less frequently I experience certain things which used to hit me square in the face every time I went near the topic as a PC: a new piece of knowledge that leaves you entirely confused and thoroughly re-examining the paradigm you’re trying to get your head around. Having done a fair few talks over the years to professionals in policing and in mental health, I thought I had it fairly squared away in my head how to answer the questions that arise when discussing intoxication by drugs or alcohol, relative to police decisions about things like section 136 of the Mental Health Act. And then, Wiltshire Police rang for an opinion on a psychiatric report they’d received ahead of an inquest.  I’m still thinking this through, several weeks later, because it’s almost entirely beyond comprehension this hasn’t come up before.

In February 2017, the police were called to an incident in Salisbury where they found a very drunk individual who had involuntarily expelled urine and...

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Police: Accountable to the Law, not the NHS

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

On 12th November 2013, I wrote a blog entitled ‘Here We Go Again‘, following the death of a vulnerable man in Bedfordshire who we now know was called Leon Briggs. His death is subject of an ongoing criminal inquiry, more than four and half years later and that means, regardless of what happens criminally, there is still a potential disciplinary process to come, certainly followed by a Coronial hearing to establish all the issues around Mr Briggs’s unexplained and unexpected death on 4th November 2013. The full circumstances around that incident are yet to emerge and be tested and my best guess is, the legal process for that will run well in to 2019, if not the next decade.

But on 12th November 2013, I sat down in the evening to write that very general post, trying again to point out to police officers the various factors that can combine together to create conditions in which a death in police custody is more like than otherwise. The idea was to sound a reminder alarm through social media and that might prick officers’...

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Police: Exacerbating Tensions

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

I’ve had to ask myself recently whether I’m guilty of potentially exacerbating tensions or conflict between the police and mental health services, after a number of suggestions on social media and elsewhere that this is the effect of what I am doing. It didn’t take long to work out that this is precisely what I am deliberately doing, on just some occasions. I would argue this is of necessity, other options being unavailable or unacceptable. In addition to thinking that the management of mental health demand cannot just be about what the mental health system thinks the police should do, I have also come to believe very profoundly, the key to determining the role of the police lies in the rights, protections and views of those of us who live with mental health problems. And somewhere in there, even without us considering the roles and realities of policing, lies tension.

I have always listened very keenly to a number of mental health professionals who have helped me over the years, people to whom I will be indebted for all the coffees and...

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Police: CarePlan: Call the Police!

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

We are hearing stories on social media at the moment, of patients who claim they were told to ‘call the police’ when they have contacted their community or crisis team for support as they recognise they are becoming unwell or at a difficult point. We also know, on some occasions, a patient’s formal CarePlan for crisis is to ‘call the police’ as the first resort. I fully understand, as pointed out by a mental health nurse on Twitter last night, that we have no way of knowing whether patients who claim to have called the police were, in fact, told to do so; and we don’t necessarily have evidence that all the CarePlans which purport to list this, actually do so.

What we do know is this: at least some of these examples are verified and we do know that some of the time that ‘call the police’ is put in to practice, it has involved a CrisisTeam or CommunityTeam themselves making that call on 999, not the patient. In other words, the ‘call the police’ phenomenon is real, even if some maintain it may be exaggerated on...

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Police: Twenty Four Hours in Police Custody

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Last night’s episode was a belter wasn’t it? … see Channel 4 ‘catch up’ on the internet, if you missed it: 10pm on 25th June.  It was right up my alley – Nyaar St Juste rang the police telling them to come with shovels because there was a body in a garden. Upon arrival officers arrested him because he had failed to turn up to Luton Crown Court the day before and whilst he was in custody he was interviewed, not as a suspect, about the call he made regarding the body in the garden. Police were making enquiries in to it all, which started to suggest he may have been the one to dig the hole and nothing was found to suggest a crime. He was taken to court, released by the judge on bail and stabbed his mother causing his brother to ring the police and report the whole thing.

Thus an attempted murder investigation began. Because of the way he was presenting with limited communication, whispers and unusual demeanour, the custody nurse quite rightly sought a mental health assessment, for which he had to be taken to A&E due to...

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Police: Let’s Do The Maths

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Look back to when I joined the police are you’ll see that crime levels, measured either by police recorded crime or by the British Crime Survey, were much higher – but if you look at statistics on use of s136 of the Mental Health Act, the quality of them has not always been great, but what we do know, is they’ve mainly just increased year on year, from the first proper attempt at detailed stats in 2007, by the IPCC (as they were then called).

  • 2007 = 18,500 detentions under s136, of which 65% were removed to custody.
  • 2017 = 28,271 detentions* under s136, of which 3.5% were removed to custody.

* we know this figure was too low: Devon and Cornwall Police were unable to submit a return and they have historically reported approximately 1,400 to 1,500 uses of the power per year; and we know some forces under-reported their figures, so it’s likely to be at least 30,000.

It will be the autumn of 2018 before we learn the new figures for 2017/18, but it strikes me we’re due to see another rise, potentially this time a touch steeper than...

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Police: Capacity for What?!

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

It’s rearing its head again: whether or not somebody has the ‘capacity’ to be a victim or ‘capacity’ to be a suspect. One thing that promotes a blog post is a conversation with someone who is noticing a particular problem and today’s post is an example of that: an inspector who has been reviewing crime reports and crime recording standards, wondering if sometimes the police are too quick to try to latch on to misunderstood ideas of ‘capacity’, as a quick proxy for whether to record or investigate a crime. I think he’s on to something here, as we’ve seen high-profile examples of this. It also flicks that switch of mine that ‘capacity’ is a legal concept to be discussed when referring to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and someone’s ability to take a particular decision for themselves when they be putting themselves at risk. But it’s not really the thing to do when you’re investigating a crime allegation to ask, “Does he have capacity?”

Let’s just be really clear: it’s a stupid question that tells you nothing...

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Latest Mental Health Cop Stories

Justice Delayed, not Denied
A Safeguarding Call
Telephone Triage
Acute Intoxication is a Mental Disorder
Accountable to the Law, not the NHS

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