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Police: Playing Mental Health Cards

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

On New Year’s Eve 2018, a man seriously assaulted a number of people at Manchester Victoria railway station – including one of the police officers who arrested him shortly after the attack began. I remember blogging about the incident, frustrated at the immediate calls for his extra-judicial murder and frustrate that many suggested that he’d “play the mental health card” or that him being ‘sectioned’ under the Mental Health Act was some kind of ‘easy way out’. We often see these things in cases of serious crime involving someone affected by their mental health. All normal so far.

Mahdi Mohamud was sentenced to life imprisonment today, with a recommendation from the judge that he serve a minimum of 11yrs. In addition, the judge imposed a so-called ‘hybrid order’ under s45A of the Mental Health Act 1983, which means that Mohamud will be detained in a psychiatric hospital in the first instance and this short post just seeks to explain what s45A does in practice, in the context of this particular case. In addition,...

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Police: Still More to Do

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

It’s that time of year: new data released for the police use of section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983, available in a Home Officer bulletin reporting of wider use of various police powers. It gives use various express clues, if you read the thing closely, that there is increasing pressure on the system, ongoing confusion about the ‘new’ legislation from two years ago and difficulties which could still yet manifest itself in untoward events gone awry, which would seem unjustifiable given the lessons we’ve previously learned the hard way from other incidents over the last 20years.

The headlines are –

  • Use of s136 MHA is still rising year on year: it’s up 12% since last year to 33,238 – remember that in 2007 when the IPCC did its seminal report on the use of this power, they found 18,500 uses in a year.
  • If it rises again next year as it did this, for example, the use of this power will have doubled in 13yrs.
  • 81% of people detained were removed to a healthcare setting that was NOT an Emergency Department – last year 85% people...

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Police: Can’t Fix This For You

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

I would like to attempt to slay one of the biggest fallacies in all of the debate about how the Mental Health Act should operate, not least because it often happens in connection with operational policing.  And I’m going to fail – because I know that the very proposition I’m about to tackle will lead to the proposition being repeated as proof that the attack on it is fallacious!  You’ll have heard it said many times, especially by Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) – “you can’t section someone unless you’ve got a bed”.  Also, “You can’t make an application [under the MHA] unless you know you’ve got a bed”.

We’ve seen this play out in Coroner’s courts, most notably in recent times in the death of David Stacey where this whole ‘bed’ thing ended up with a finding of legal neglect contributed to David’s death.  There was discussion in that case and a Preventing Future Deaths notice about legal compliance and like David’s case, this stuff often unfolds in connection with policing.  It arises...

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Police: Banning Custody

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

The next time the Home Office publish statistics on the use of s136 and the locations to which people are removed after use of police powers under the MHA, we should learn that it’s down in to double figures – under 100 for the whole country. Given that it was over 11,000 around 2008, this is quite an achievement, on the face of things. Of course, it’s always going to be “right” that people in crisis access settings which not custodial, like prisons or police stations, and the 2017 amendments to the Mental Health Act preventing the use of police cells as Place of Safety in all but the most exceptional circumstances for adults.

To provoke debate and prompt thought amongst my fellow police inspectors who must authorise this stuff(!), I would never, ever authorise the use of a police station in exceptional circumstances. This is mainly because someone matching the criteria would be at grave risk away from the kind of urgent medical support that would (or should) be available in mental health units or emergency departments and because there...

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Police: Spitting at the Police

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Last week, the prosecution of a defendant under new legislation specific to emergency services personal was was abandoned as “not in the public interest” after a defendant had been charged with spitting at a police officer. The headline in the Daily Telegraph did a cracking job of conveying vagueness about the reasons behind this and because it relates to the mental state of the defendant, I thought a short blog of pure speculation on my part may be helpful to considering what may have gone on here.

First things first, the decision to abandon this prosecution was obviously nothing whatsoever to do with the fact it was new legislation and it was not a statement that spitting at police officers (or anyone else) is not in the public interest to pursue. Despite my reaction to the specifics of this being as uninformed as everyone else’s, what did strike me was how this was about the coverage and social media reaction to the Crown Prosecution Service decision was apparently focussed on whether this says something about the effectiveness of...

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Police: A Story About De-escalation

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

A story about the difficulties of de-escalation –

With two other officers, I once had to try to urgently ‘de-escalate’ a situation involving a suicidal man – most of us have had to do this at one stage and I’ve done it more than once. All the other efforts, thankfully, were successful, but this one wasn’t. The incident took place many years ago and I suspect it will be one of the few incidents from my career I vividly remember for the rest of my life.

The man involved had covered himself in flammable liquid and was suggesting he’d set himself alight – we knew he had a history of serious mental illness and were primarily concerned about his welfare, but what we couldn’t do (as police officers) was the one thing he wanted in order to be persuaded to put the lighter down: a guarantee he wouldn’t go back to prison for the serious offence he’d recently committed. And the offence was very serious, committed shortly after his release from prison after serving a sentence for a very similar offence, towards the same victim....

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Police: The Law is Optional

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

When I started proper work on the subject of policing and mental health, I had not the first clue where to start – there was no course you could ask to go on.  I came to this agenda originally precisely because of my professional ignorance, but also my uncertainty and my fear – there was no personal agenda in the background of this.  I’ve been asked more than once whether I used to be a mental health nurse – no, I didn’t.  I’ve been asked whether I, my family or close friends have experienced mental health issues – actually, none of your business, frankly but I’ll restate that the essence of my curiousity fand frustrations was professional.

Without that first clue, I did what seemed instinctive to me as a police officer: I picked up the Mental Health Act 1983 and read it – then I read it again.  I also read the Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act – and yes, I do mean all of it.  When the Mental Capacity Act received Royal Assent and when it’s Code of Practice came out, I read those too – I’m a policeman: I look at...

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Police: The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Earlier this month, Royal Assent was given to the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019. This is a very short piece of legislation and it is, as the name suggests, merely amending legislation for the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This post is a taster of what it means for police officers and paramedics in particular, especially in light of previous posts I’ve done which attempt to clarify terms like ‘deprivation of liberty’ and to explain the current section 4B of the MCA.  This is the thing which talks about not depriving someone of the liberty where they lack capacity, except to provide a ‘life-sustaining treatment’ or do a ‘vital act’ which prevents ‘a serious deterioration in someone’s condition’.

This amendment stuff is not yet law – we don’t yet know the commencement date and this post is just an early heads up of what’s coming towards us!

#TEAM999

I’m hearing estimates it may be late 2020 before this stuff takes effect and if history repeats itself, there will be little explanation about...

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Police: A-B-C-D-E

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

You may remember from late last year, I’ve made a large noise about the inquest in to the death of David Stacey in Leicester. David died in late 2017 and the inquest just before Christmas last year, concluded that his accidental death in road collision had been contributed to by the neglect of NHS services.  In particular, it was alleged that non-compliance with s140 MHA and there being no beds available for urgent admissions, was such a problem that it required a Preventing Future Deaths report to the Secretary of State for Health as well as to the relevant Leicestershire mental health services and clinical commissioning groups.

This post is just a short addition because yesterday Leicester City Council published a Safeguarding Adults Review report after a learning event held in the city last year. The report is now a public document and it speaks for itself.  However, I want to make three quick points in respect of it and leave you to your conclusions.

  • You’ll notice that it is dated ‘September 2018’, having been written by an independent...

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Police: Boats and Tents and Campervans

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

“Is this a house, a flat or a room where this person or another person lives?” … THAT’s what you have to ask yourself when trying to determine whether section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 can be used in a particular location. As this 2017 amendments to the Act were being drafted, along with guidance from Government about its application in practice, the alteration from “any place to which the public has access” to the new restriction which focusses, more or less, on ‘private dwellings’ caused debate on the matter of non-traditional homes. And there are a couple of aspects to it worth consideration.

What does “lives” mean? I live in my home in Bromsgrove – it’s a traditional house. But a former colleague in West Midlands Police decided he was going to retire to a canal boat and he sold his home. A friend from university lives on a houseboat in south-west London. These things are their homes in the way that my house is my home – our possession are here, we eat our meals in these places and sleep there most...

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Latest Mental Health Cop Stories

Playing Mental Health Cards
Still More to Do
Can’t Fix This For You
Banning Custody
Spitting at the Police

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