The Metropolitan Police has commissioned an independent review into how the force responds to people with mental health conditions.
A panel will examine every case from the last five years where someone with a mental health condition has died or been seriously injured following contact with the police. The panel will be led by Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of the health and social care provider Turning Point.
Review of call handling and custody procedures
The commission will investigate “all aspects of police interaction” including call handling and custody procedures. The way the Met works with partner agencies will also be reviewed.
The families of people with mental health conditions who have died or been seriously injured after contact with the police have been invited to contribute.
The review follows criticism of the Met’s actions prior to the deaths in custody of Olaseni Lewis and Sean Rigg. Both men had experienced mental health issues.
Review will lead to “clear and actionable recommendations”
Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “A number of cases have highlighted concerns with how police respond to people with mental health conditions. I want to know that we are doing everything we can to get this right. That is why I’ve commissioned this independent review.”
Lord Adebowale said: “I welcome the commissioner’s commitment to improve practice in this area. What is important is to get to the truth of the matter and remove any excuses for not taking the chance to improve practice.”
“I enter this review, careful to have an open mind, with clarity of focus and to be driven by the facts.I am determined that the work of the review will lead to clear and actionable recommendations,” he added.
Campaigners criticise review as ”cosmetic exercise”
Campaigners working to invesitgate deaths in custody and mental health claimed to have been frozen out of contributing to the review. Charity Black Mental Health UK said it and experts at Inquest, a charity that investigates “contentious deaths”, had been excluded from the review.
Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK, said: “To choose to exclude experts from BMH UK and Inquest who have the critical insight needed in this area which would ensure the transformation in police treatment of this vulnerable group, leaves one with the impression that this is nothing more than a cosmetic exercise, which will not result in any positive change.”
The commission is expected to report its recommendations to the Met in February 2013. Its report will then be made public.
Image: Jeff Blackler/Rex features