There have been calls for action on the control and restraint of
people with mental health problems following the verdict of
unlawful killing recorded at the inquest into the death of Roger
Sylvester, a 30-year-old black man, died in hospital in 1999, a
week after being restrained by police officers outside his home.
Eight police officers have been suspended.
Mental health charity Mind said that unacceptable levels of
restraint had been used on Sylvester in “yet another example of the
authorities reinforcing the ‘big, black and dangerous’
Chief executive Richard Brook said it was high time the government
took a serious look at practices and attitudes to mental health in
the health service and the police.
The Metropolitan Police Service said that it would consider the
coroner’s recommendations when they were published, but stressed
that restraint techniques were reviewed “as a matter of
It added that dealing with mentally ill people was placing
“increasing pressure” on the service.
Under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983, a police officer
has the power to remove to a place of safety any person in a public
place who appears to be suffering from a mental disorder and needs
immediate care and control.
In most London boroughs, the police have agreed with hospitals that
if an individual needs urgent assistance, officers can take them
directly to a hospital or to a specialist psychiatric unit rather
than to a police station. Also, while a police vehicle would
traditionally have been used to transport them to hospital, it is
now considered more appropriate for an ambulance to be called,
which would then be accompanied by police.
The Department of Health said that it had set up a cross-government
group on the management of violence in mental health settings and
that it would be issuing guidance. A spokesperson added that the
National Institute for Clinical Excellence would be producing
guidance next year on the short-term management of disturbed
service users in adult in-patient psychiatric settings.