ICVA says no to detaining the mentally ill in police cells

September 2013

ICVA has commended BBC Panorama for highlighting one of its key concerns: the use of Police cells to detain mentally ill people.

Acknowledging the difficulties faced by the police, Kevan Downer, ICVA Chair, has described publicity surrounding this contentious issue as a positive step forward:

"We are acutely aware of the additional pressures placed on police forces through having to deal with people who are mentally unwell, a situation which is taking its toll on both the police and detainees."  

Section 136 of the mental health act 1983 states that under certain special circumstances a safe place could be construed as a police cell, where a mental health patient may be held for up to 72 hours.  

Kevan Downer continued:

"ICVA is committed to safeguarding the rights and entitlements of all those in police custody and do not regard a police cell as a healthy environment for anyone with a mental illness.  We echo the minster's opinion that this is a 'national scandal' and one which we repeatedly endeavour to address. We will continue to lobby for joined up thinking within Government to address this issue."  

Ian Smith, chief executive of ICVA added:

"We actively encourage independent custody visitors to raise concerns identified during detainee visits with their PCC, with particular emphasis on vulnerable detainees who have mental health issues."

ICVA recently developed a suite of training materials specifically designed to equip independent custody visitors (ICVs) with the skills required to respond appropriately to detainees with a mental illness.  90% of people suffer from poor mental health and ICVs can support custody staff by assisting in a non threatening manner.