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Police and Crime Commissioner says mental health trusts must be ready to deal with law changes

Mental health trusts must show they are fully prepared for changes in the law, Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has warned.

Matthew Ellis

Matthew Ellis

Matthew Ellis has written to health bosses to ensure they are ready to deal with people who can no longer be detained by police.

Under the Policing and Crime Act 2017, using police cells as a ‘place of safety’ for people with a mental health condition should now only occur in the rarest of circumstances and even then, for no longer than 24 hours.

A report commissioned by Mr Ellis in 2013 was used by Theresa May – then the Home Secretary – to help draw up new guidance on the way people with mental health issues were dealt with by forces across the country.

“The changes prompted by the report we did in Staffordshire had a major impact with a huge reduction by more than 80 per cent in the county of people held in cells as a place of safety and more than 50 per cent nationally,” Mr Ellis said. “I expressed my horror when I first found out people were regularly held in cells, when no crime had been committed, simply because they were suffering with mental ill-health.

“It was a shock it was taking place in 21st century Britain and now I’m really concerned the very real benefits gained since are in danger of being lost.

“We cannot afford to go backwards. The new legislation actually offers added incentive towards reducing even further the use of cells in this way. But I want assurance from the mental health trusts that they have plans in place to respond.”

The Police and Crime Commissioner said a joined up approach had helped to bring about improvements.

“It is important we continue to be at the forefront of this work and make the most of this opportunity to improve even further,” said Mr Ellis.

“A police cell is not and should never be used as a place of safety for somebody with mental ill-health,” he added.

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