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 believe that police custody is not the best place for Section 136 detainees given the vulnerabilities of the detainee, and the lack access to mental health professionals and a recommendation was made in order 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. Both CQC and IPCC thought accuracy of the data on Section 136 detentions could be improved, especially to capture the outcome following initial contact with the police. ACPO and IPCC had agreed to discuss how this could be included in the annual custody data returns.
In May 2012, the Secretariat attended 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 data collection, in particular, issues about the lack of reliable data collection on the use of Section 136, issues relating to best practice and outcomes of Section 136 assessments. The importance of good local working relationships was also discussed and how this could improve the care pathway for detainees. There was concern with the use of police custody suites to hold Section 136 detainees. Attendees thought there was important roles for NHS commissioners in future to ensure use of health based places of safety.
The RCPsych working group is taking forward many of the issues raised at the IAP’s Section 136 roundtable held in November 2011. The Panel will monitor the work of this group and consider the outcome of the joint HMIC and CQC thematic inspection of Section 136 before planning any further work in this area.
Terms of Reference
The working group considering the risks relating to the transfer and escorting of detainees will:
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.