PCC confident Kent Police will comply with new rules
Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner is confident the force will comply with a new ban on keeping children detained under the Mental Health Act in cells.
From this summer, the use of police cells as places of safety for children in mental health crisis will be outlawed. Adults will only be kept in police cells in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Speaking to the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel on 28 March, the PCC Matthew Scott said:
‘With regards to children, I think I can be confident that it will be a never event. Last year (2015-16) we had one child under the age of 18 who ended up in a police cell detained in crisis. The year before that there were two.
‘That follows a real effort made by the force locally, and by forces across the country, to keep young people out of police cells in mental health crisis. The facilities and the pathways that KMPT (Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust) offer have gone under some changes and we’re starting to see those improve so I’m fairly confident that we will be able to make sure that element of the legislation is met.
‘I can assure you that that training [of police officers] is taking place. I’ve done the existing training on the legislation with them. That gave me the confidence that we are equipping officers with the skills and training they need to be able to make the right decisions.’
Mr Scott, who is the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ deputy lead spokesman on mental health issues, continued:
‘We have a new mental health team that’s going to be set up under the new model that the Chief Constable is promoting, so we’ll have dedicated officers in addition to the street triage service that’s going out.
‘As the legislation changes it will be very closely scrutinised to make sure that the right decisions are being taken.’
Mr Scott made revolutionising the way the police deals with mental health a priority in his Six Point Plan last year. It is now a guiding principle of the Safer in Kent Plan which sets out the Chief Constable’s priorities over the next four years.
Mr Scott added:
‘Around one-third of all Kent Police time is spent dealing with cases involving mental health. We have to do something about it. It cannot continue. It is more often than not the reason why police officers are taken away from frontline policing, instead spending their time waiting for Section 136 suites to become available and sitting around waiting for patients to be seen in A&E.
‘It’s not fair on the officers and staff themselves and it means that local communities miss out because their frontline officers are being taken away to deal with mental health cases when there should be someone else supporting that individual.’