31 / 1 / 2017 5.30pm
The Policing and Crime Bill today received Royal Assent meaning it now becomes an Act of Parliament.
The Act has positive implications for mental health with measures including:
- Stopping those under 18 from being detained in a police station and restricting such detention for adults by reforming police powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983
- An extended definition of places that can be used as places of safety (encouraging innovation through the use of alternative providers such as voluntary sector groups and enabling suitable places to be used on an ad hoc basis on a contingency basis)
- Extending section 136 powers to anywhere other than a domestic dwelling
- Enabling mental health assessments under section 135 to take place in the person’s own home rather than having to remove them
- Reducing the detention time from 72 hours to 24 hours – with provision for an extension of time on clinical grounds alone
- New powers of search for safety purposes in homes or places of safety under s135 and 136
The mental health provisions are currently on course to come into effect from May and guidance will be published in due course to support this.
It will be for local health and policing partners to work together to identify any wider implications for how to implement the changes. It is important that each area considers awareness amongst practitioners, provision of places of safety and resourcing when rolling out the changes.
Responding to the news Sean Duggan, chief executive, Mental Health Network, said:
"This Act is an encouraging step forward because it gives police more powers to provide dignified, high quality support in the initial stages of a person's mental health crisis. Early access to a health professional and a more suitable environment than a jail cell is an important factor in a person's recovery.
"While the Act is undoubtedly strong, huge pressures on both mental health and policing will make it challenging to fully implement. Staffing levels in mental health are extremely hard pushed because promised Government funding is slow to reach the frontline.
“Good mental health requires the police, the NHS, schools and housing services to work better together. It’s vital we embrace these opportunities and make it happen.”