What is the role of the police in supporting improved mental health outcomes?
On occasion the police, mental health and ambulance services are required to work together to ensure the best and safest outcome for service users. The Mental Health Act (MHA) provides police with specific powers.
Section 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act are primarily about taking a person to a ‘place of safety’. Section 135 concerns people who are not in a public place and a court warrant is required to gain entry to any premises where they are known to be.
Section 136 allows a police officer to remove a person who appears to be suffering from a mental disorder from a place to which the public has access. Both Section 135 and 136 allow the removal and conveyance to a place of safety for a maximum of 24 hours (extendable for up to 12 hours if you could not be assessed for clinical reasons) so that you can be seen by a doctor and an approved mental health professional. Usually this is a health based place of safety situated in a hospital or a mental health unit.
Where appropriate the police may support the ambulance service in conveying people who have been detained under the Mental Health Act to a hospital or a mental health unit.
There are occasions when people with a mental health disorder commit criminal offences. The role of the police is to determine whether the offence has been committed as a result of the mental health disorder and to establish whether the person is under the care of mental health services. Mental health professionals work collaboratively with police to facilitate early assessment at the police station. Where appropriate the person may need to be diverted from custody to a hospital for a period of further assessment or treatment.
When someone with a mental health disorder commits an offence they may be arrested for the offence. The police will ensure that vulnerable people with a mental disorder, like any other member of the public, are safeguarded whilst they are in police custody. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act means that certain safeguards are put in place when people are mentally ill or mentally vulnerable and one of those safeguards is that we will always get them an Appropriate Adult to represent their interests whilst they are in police custody and during the normal investigative process into the offence for which they have been arrested.