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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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Police: The Forensic Route

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

When we hear mental health professionals talking about someone going ‘down the forensic route’, they mean a patient with healthcare needs being managed under Part III of the Mental Health Act 1983. This Part of the Act includes all those sections from 35 to 55 and it covers a range of provisions for the criminal courts and the Ministry of Justice to manage those offenders who are thought to be seriously mentally ill and in need of treatment, whilst their case progresses through the criminal justice system.

So, if you don’t mind, we need to get rid of one really important issue very quickly, before talking about issues around forensic options: if the police or CPS are yet to prosecute someone for any alleged offence, Part III is of no application whatsoever to that patient, no matter what their ‘risk status’. There are plenty of people walking around in society today that I think are dangerous criminals and I’d prefer they were behind bars for my family’s and your safety, but until I can get evidence to prosecute them for something,...

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Police: Attention to Detail

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Last year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published their Standards on the Mental Health of Adults in the Criminal Justice System. This involved NICE reviewing the best available evidence and practice around the contact that vulnerable adults have with the criminal justice system. Subsequently, NICE published what they call a ‘quality standard‘ – this is the subject of a comment piece in the recently published issue of Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry (volume 22, 2018).

I’ve just spent a whole week in Cornwall (picture above), trying really hard to step away from work – it’s been quite a busy few months during which I’ve had to do things which are quite new to all the work I’ve ever done on policing and mental health. I’ve also been consumed in the recent months that the net effect of what we’ve ended up doing to make the world a better place is merely making it worse. Not just slowing down how much worse it’s getting – but actually accelerating things in the wrong direction. I know...

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Police: My Health and Yours

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

My healthcare, and that of my family and friends, is absolutely none of your business. None whatsoever, with all due respect! Yours is none of mine and I’m only professionally interested in a very limited and particular way.

I’ve been asked a few times whether I’m interested in this area of policing because I have personal experience of mental health problems, or perhaps via a good friend or relative? That’s none of your business, as I’ve said. This reply should not be used to construe that the answer is ‘Yes’ and that I’m trotting out privacy rights in order to avoid revealing things. To be honest, I’m trotting out my privacy rights (and those of my friends and relatives) just because I can and because it’s up to me whether I reveal things about my or their health. I’m afraid, I’m a bit like that – private, contrarian and rather fond of my rights as well as being very content with the attendant obligations that always accompany rights. It’s my decision what I choose to reveal about my healthcare and it’s not for...

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Latest Mental Health Cop Stories

Acute Intoxication is a Mental Disorder
Accountable to the Law, not the NHS
Exacerbating Tensions
CarePlan: Call the Police!
Twenty Four Hours in Police Custody

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Emergency Shorts:
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