Risks relating to the Transfer and Escorting of Detainees
In June 2011, a paper on the risks relating to the transfer and escort of detainees was presented to the Ministerial Board. One of the main concerns highlighted in the paper was the difficulty of transferring detainees subject to Section 136 of the Mental Health Act (which states that the police can remove from a public place to a place of safety a person who appears to have a mental disorder and who needs immediate help).
Previous research conducted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) highlighted that police officers are often unable to take Section 136 detainees to a place of safety other than a police station, either because it simply does not exist or because hospital staff refuse to accept detainees who are intoxicated or violent. The IAP believed that police custody is not the best place for Section 136 detainees given the vulnerabilities of the detainee and the lack of access to mental health professionals and a recommendation was made to address these concerns.
In November 2011, the Panel chaired a roundtable bringing together ACPO, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMIC, IPCC, Metropolitan Police Service, Offender Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The aim of this was to identify the local arrangements in place for the provision of Section 136 detainees and to discuss potential costs of staffing additional places of safety (in the context of ongoing budget cuts). There was a consensus from attendees that police custody was not the best place to detain a person under Section 136.
In May 2012, the Panel was represented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) working group on Section 136 of the MHA. Representatives from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Welsh Assembly Government, DH, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), CQC, Metropolitan Police Service, Royal College of Nursing, Health and Social Care Information Centre and the College of Social Work were in attendance.
Attendees discussed concerns about local working relationships, the availability of health based places of safety as well as the need for reliable data. The RCPsych produced updated multi-agency guidance aimed at addressing these problems.
Since this work commenced there has been growing focus in a range of organisations to improve the use of section 136 of the MHA, as part of the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat. It set out how 22 national bodies involved in health, policing, social care, housing, local government and the third sector will work together and contains specific expectations about the need for health based places of safety.
The Panel supports the Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat and looks forward to hearing more about its implementation.
Terms of Reference
The working group considering the risks relating to the transfer and escorting of detainees include:
1. Undertake a scoping exercise across all of the custody sectors to:
- Identify what the particular problems and dangers associated with the transportation of detainees actually are
- Identify whether the information needed to minimise the risks to detainees during transportation is collected and shared as effectively as possible
- Determine whether the vehicles used for transportation are as safe as possible from a design perspective
2. Review the new Person Escort Record (PER) in order to learn as much as possible about the process and how any benefits from it can be maximised. Rather than looking at the form itself in isolation, this group will look at it in context as part of a process of safe transfer.
3. Identify some case studies to illustrate any gaps in processes or examples of good practice, which could be replicated
4. Present the IAP with a report summarising the key findings and recommendations for consideration.