Blogs from Police &   
 other Emergency Service Workers

Police: Risk Assessment

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

I’m all too wary of newspaper coverage of cases which have appeared in courtrooms.  Having been directly involved in enough cases to know that coverage is necessarily partial, it often misses things which can be important to understanding what has occurred.  In fairness to newspapers, they have a few hundred words to summarise hearings whose case papers can sometimes require a porter’s trolley to wheel in a number of packing cases, so things will be left out!  It often means I read coverage and then say to others that I “have one or two hundred questions about all this.”

The Manchester Evening News’s recent coverage of the inquest after the death of Mr Martin Gibbons was especially interesting for a specific reason.  In just two short sentences, the coverage made a claim about the assessment and response to Mr Gibbons when he was in an Emergency Department (ED) which just made me wonder about things more generally.  Events leading to Mr Gibbons tragic death included his deteriorating mental health, discussion of difficulties with his...

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Police: Time

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

A month or so back, on Sunday nights, the BBC aired episodes of Jimmy McGovern’s “Time“, a drama about the prison system.  It was the best television I’ve seen in years and I ended up watching all three episodes, as if it were a film.  I’ve since re-watched it all and I hope it goes on to win recognition for its writing, acting and representation of the prison system.  Former prisoners and prison officers alike have commented that it’s the best representation of the reality of prison they’ve ever known.

Seen from mostly from the dual perspective of an English teacher (Mark, played by Sean Bean) convicted of causing death by dangerous driving whilst drunk and a senior prison officer, it took only a matter of minutes for the issue of mental health to be front and centre.  It was impactive and graphic, almost distressing.  Actor Stephen Graham (who plays prison officer Mr McNally) said in publicity ahead of the broadcast that he wanted his work to be uncomfortable to watch and it certainly was.

Spoiler alert! – please don’t read on if you’ve...

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Police: Government Response

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

In 2018, Professor Sir Simon Wessely concluded his review of the Mental Health Act 1983 and recommended certain actions.  In early 2021, the Government announced a consultation about the White Paper and today, they have published their response. To their consultation

This is an early post after a relatively light read.  It highlights the main points of the review as they affect the police service.


There are only two main issues emphasised, in addition to the general need for ‘awareness’ and improved focus in policing and the broader criminal justice system (for example around neuro-diversity).

But the two particular points are —

  • Mental health holding powers for Emergency Departments —
  • Currently, no-one in EDs perceived to be at risk can be subject to a ‘holding power’ under the MHA.
  • There is endless, unresolved debate about the extent and applicability of the Mental Capacity Act in those circumstances.
  • The Government White Paper therefore proposed ensuring clarification that ED staff could detain people they...

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Police: Hospital or Prison?

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Recent news coverage touched on the fact a family were not told that the man sentencing to life for killing their son had been transferred almost immediately to a hospital.  In 2019, Brian Heelless killed Alex Davies in a brutal attack with a knife.  After being sentenced to life in prison, Mr Healless was moved almost immediately to a medium secure hospital and  this has caused understandable consternation which I thought may be worth explaining, not least because I can see why it raises immediate and obvious questions about the will of the Crown Court and the consternation appears to have been made worse by Mr Davies’s family not learning what had happened until many weeks later.

Let me explain the background –

Brian Healless denied murdering Mr Davies during his trial but admitting killing him and he argued the ‘diminished responsibility‘ partial-defence.  This would mean, in short, that he accepted a level of culpability for the killing, amounting to manslaughter, but amidst a context where his reasoning and functioning were affected...

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Police: Preventing Future Deaths

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

For a couple of years, I’ve been regularly reading the website of the Chief Coroner, in particular the section on Preventing Future Deaths and I’ve blogged about this before.  I had a discussion with an academic last year about the potential of me undertaking PhD research on PFD issues affecting policing and mental health, not least because of the obvious potential to argue that lessons from these notices are not always fully learned.  To the extent that they are, usually by the organisations directly affected, they are not necessarily learned more widely across agencies and across the country.  In my recent reading, I kept a list of cases with at least some bearing on policing and mental health issues and thought it may be useful to provide links and summary comments about those which stick out, at least for me.


Where a death occurs and a PFD notice is issued to police force X, will police force Y know about this and learn from it?  Will Ambulance Trust Y and Mental Health Trust Y know about this and learn from it...

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Police: Section 135 PFDs

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

I’ve recently being doing some research on Preventing Future Death notices and putting together a list of notable examples around a few different themes.  The notice from January 2020 after the death of Mr Thiago Araujo is especially interesting around the topic of s135 MHA assessments and it’s not the first notice in recent years to touch upon this.  The Coroner lists a number of areas of concern but it’s numbers 4 and 5 which caught my attention – the acknowledgement that re-admission to hospital may be required and the process and requirements for an assessment under s135(1) Mental Health Act 1983.

Where someone is believed to be in a private premises is thought to need assessment for consideration of their admission to hospital, an Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) can make an application to a Magistrate for a warrant under s135(1) which then allows the police to force entry to the premises, if necessary, to allow for assessment.  That assessment can either occur in the premises itself, if the person consents, or the police may...

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Police: Patient Safety Alert

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

In December of 2015, NHS England published a Patient Safety Alert (PSA) on the topic of medical ‘observations’ following restraint.  A PSA is notification to NHS Trusts across the country of an emerging topic that requires urgent attention by healthcare providers to check that their own procedures are consistent with the latest guidance in the alert.  This document reminds us that risks during restraint are quite well known before adding, “harm can also occur in the period following restraint from the effect of illicit substances, alcohol, prescribed medications (including any rapid tranquilisation) and co-existing medical conditions. People with diagnoses of severe and enduring mental illnesses are at increased risk of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, infections, epilepsy and respiratory disease, all of which can potentially be exacerbated by the psychological and physical effects of restrictive intervention; between 2008-2012 there were 11 deaths within 24 hours of restraint in mental health settings in...

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Police: French Insanity Law

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Mental health law varies by country, even within the UK.  As soon as you start comparing mental health laws in non-British countries with our own approach you see even more ways to that such complex matters are handled.  In Germany, the courts play a far greater role in psychiatric admission than in the UK where they are usually not involved at all.  As if that’s not enough, where a person’s mental health becomes relevant to criminal proceedings it all moves up one or two more notches and as Professor Jill Peay noted (in Mental Health and Crime, 2010) the work done at the interface of mental health and criminal justice is amongst the most challenging of all.

The Court of Cassation in Paris, France’s highest court, has recently ruled that a man who admitted killing a woman in her sixties will not stand trial.  Kobili Traoré admits killing Sarah Halimi in 2017 by beating her and then throwing her from the window of her third-floor Paris apartment in what was described as an “anti-semitic frenzy”.  Psychiatric reports stated that he was...

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Police: The Reference Resources

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

It’s really gratifying to receive emails via the blog from front-line staff in various agencies seeking confirmation of legal issues, views on incidents and so on.  It’s great that people want to discuss and reflect, or to enhance their learning but can I admit to being a little restricted in my capacity to answer the queries I get?!  As well as being a front-line, 24/7 police officer, I’m married man with a family and am newly obsessed by endurance-cycling and I’m no longer posted to work on this area of policing.

The whole point behind creating a blog 10yrs ago was to address the questions I was regularly asked and put the answers and various resources on to a free-to-access, publicly available platform so people from any profession or background can access it for themselves whenever they need it.  There are now over 800 published articles on all the topics I can think of, as well as on various specific incidents in the public domain and court cases of various kinds.

Putting links to this stuff on a website means I can focus on my...

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Police: Capacity to Die

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

This tweet from a @TiredSgt has provoked quite a bit of discussion today (and just for the sake of balance there was another, unrelated thread in which a psychiatrist said the police “couldn’t recognise capacity if it slapped them in the face with a wet fish” —


So first of all, I’m glad we’re all getting on well and making friends – collaboration and improved understanding can only possibly improve as a result of such shared respect, I’m sure!

I’ve chosen to blog about this one because it’s not unique or isolated – plenty of service users have stated on social media in recent months that they’ve reached out to services of one kind or another when in crisis or feeling suicidal and the principle response has been focus on legal capacity – “you’ve got capacity to make the choice, so it’s up to you” sort of thing.  We can obviously see our very tired sergeant is a tad frustrated, and who wouldn’t be?  Taking this account at face value (mainly because it’s so often claimed, that some of these accounts have to be...

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Latest Mental Health Cop Stories

Risk Assessment
Government Response
Hospital or Prison?
Preventing Future Deaths

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