A Government-commissioned review has proposed outlawing the use of police custody as a place of safety for people under 18 who are detained under section 135 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
Section 135 gives police officers powers to enter private premises – with a warrant – to remove a person suspected of being in urgent need of a mental health assessment.
The joint review by the Home Office and the Department of Health also examined the operation of section 136, which gives police officers powers to remove someone from a public place to a 'place of safety', where they can be detained for up to 72 hours, pending a mental health assessment.
Other proposed changes include:
- Extending the use of section 136 to anywhere apart from a person's home (for example, a railway station); and
- Shortening the length of time a person can be detained under sections 135 and 136.
The review also called for improved commissioning of places of safety and faster arrangements for the use of section 135.
Dr Paul Lelliott, Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals and lead for mental health at the Care Quality Commission, said: "The joint Home Office and Department of Health review of the use of Section 135 and 136 detention under the Mental Health Act is an excellent piece of work.
"We were pleased to see that the recommendations made in the report build on those that we made in our report, A safer place to be,….. and also welcome the call for legislative change designed to end the unacceptable practice of children and young people ending up in a police cell when they experience a crisis."
The Centre for Mental Health has also published a report calling for changes to the use of police powers under the Act.