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Police cells are no ‘place of safety’

Police cells should not be used to hold people who have been
detained under the Mental Health Act 1983, the Independent Police
Complaints Commission (IPCC) said this week.

IPCC deputy chair John Wadham told a conference in London:
“Police stations are no substitutes for psychiatric hospital places
and should not be treated as places of safety.

“Cell blocks can keep somebody safe in the sense of ‘under lock
and key’ but they cannot provide the skilled medical care that a
mentally ill person needs.”

He said police powers under section 136 of the act to detain
people who appeared to have mental illness in a public place at a
place of safety were “laudable”.

But Wadham said professionals recognised that hospital A&E
departments were not suitable places of safety.

He added: “How can it be that a cell block, staffed entirely by
police officers, be designated a place of safety?”

He said the IPCC would like more places to be made available in
secure psychiatric units for people detained by the police.

The IPCC plans to start a research project on the use of police
cells as a place of safety.

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