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Police Commissioner: Too many mental health sufferers are being criminalised

Too many people are being criminalised because of mental health issues, according to Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

Matthew Ellis

Matthew Ellis

Matthew Ellis has called for a 24/7 response team to be created to help free up officers who are dealing with issues he says are better suited to other organisations.

His comments come after figures revealed that Staffordshire Police dealt with 15,000 incidents involving people with mental health issues last year – costing an estimated £600,000.

The report also showed that:

  • 82 per cent of all mental health-related police incidents were due to concerns for the safety of an adult.
  • 5,504 arrests in 2012 involved an individual with mental health issues.
  • 169 people were arrested in 2012 solely for the purpose of a mental health assessment, spending the equivalent of 61.5 days in custody.

“I’m really concerned about the welfare of individuals with mental health problems as their needs are not best dealt with in the criminal justice system,” Mr Ellis said.

“The police service tends to be the first port of call when such people need assistance, or find themselves in difficulty and I think this needs to change. I want those with the responsibility and the best and most appropriate skills, to make an effective contribution to the care of such individuals.

“The police service can’t continue to be the primary place of safety when better, more equipped professionals and facilities are available elsewhere.

“Having specialist teams will free up police time and reduce the number of occasions people with mental health problems come into custody.

“Too many people are being criminalised when they are ill because a police cell is the only place they can go.”

Staffordshire’s figures have been cited by Home Secretary Theresa May, who called for  “full and effective mental health services and fully-staffed mental health centres” in a speech to the Police Federation Annual Conference.

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