UK Government introduces new measures over use of police cells

The UK Government has introduced new mental health provisions, which are aimed at reducing the use of police cells as places of safety.

Under the new package of measures, children under 18 years and experiencing a mental health crisis will no longer be held in custody.

The new rules will also mean that adults will be held in the cells only in exceptional circumstances. In addition, a person can be detained for the purpose of a mental health assessment for only 24 hours.

UK Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “Too often and for far too long vulnerable people experiencing mental health crisis, who have committed no crime, have found themselves in a police cell because there is nowhere else to go.

“This government has been clear that the best place for people suffering mental health crisis is a healthcare setting and not a police station.

“The change in legislation will build on progress already made by police forces and health care partners that saw use of police cells for those experiencing a mental health crisis halve in the last year.”

In order to ensure sufficient alternatives are in place, the UK Department of Health is investing £30m to increase and improve places of safety for people in crisis across the country.

In 2016, 23 force areas reported reduced use of their police cells as places of safety for children to single figures or zero.

UK Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: “We have seen a 90% reduction in England in the number of people being held in custody who should be in NHS care – this move will mean that for young people this will finally be a thing of the past.”

Furthermore, section 135 and 136 powers have also been introduced for police to detain someone under the mental health act.