Police stations should not be used for assessments

    Police stations should not be regarded as “places of
    safety” to assess people from black and ethnic minority
    communities with mental health problems, campaigners warned today,
    writes Maria Ahmed.

    A group of organisations told MPs and Lords that those from BME
    communities were more likely to be “over-policed,”
    leaving those with mental health problems at greater risk of ending
    up in custody than their white counterparts.

    Giving evidence to the joint committee on the draft Mental
    Health Bill, chief executive of Turning Point Lord Victor Adebowale
    reiterated evidence by the Independent Police Complaints Commission
    that found over half of those who died in police custody had a
    history of mental health problems.

    Under the 1983 Act, people can be held for up to 72 hours for
    mental health assessment in police stations.

    Adebowale told the committee that the Macpherson report and the
    case of David ‘Rocky’ Bennett, who died after being
    restrained at a clinic, should be taken into account when looking
    at the draft legislation.

    He said: “Police stations should not be regarded as a
    place of safety for those with serious mental disorders, and people
    should not be held there for three days.”

    The National Black and Minority Ethnic Mental Health network
    also expressed concerns about over-representation of BME
    communities at the “coercive end” of the mental health
    system.

    The group said in their submission:”The Bill’s
    emphasis on the perceived risk to the public chimes with popularly
    held stereotypes of ‘threat’ and
    ‘dangerousness’ applied to mental health service users,
    particularly those from BME communities.”

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