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Police: Live-Tweeting

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

All of us who use Twitter are probably guilty on occasion of wanting to shout up about a job to highlight something we see as important – a success story where someone was helped, a criminal caught, officers who’ve acted bravely, etc.. We want to highlight our work, the pressures on us, the successes we have and help explain to the public the reality of our work and what we’re contending with as we wrestle with it – sometimes literally. In that context I want to write here about something I’ve done as much as anyone and to caution against it: therefore to the extent that this might look like a telling off – and I really hope it doesn’t – it’s one that applies to me at least as much as anyone else. It’s something (I think) I’ve stopped doing after listening to others on Twitter who live with mental health problems: live-tweeting mental health or suicide related jobs. And I mean this both in the sense of an organised live-tweetathon, for example of a kind that was once set-up and then cancelled at the last moment by a police force...

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Police: Pre-Identifying 135 “Beds”

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

A little lack of knowledge can be a dangerous thing –

A couple of years ago, I learned of a perculiar incident in a police force area that would have made a great blog to emphasise a point, but it was so specific, I withheld from doing it, in case it self-identified those involved. I have since learned of two other cases under review where a similarly distinct legal point was at heart of what occurred. I’ve also heard this from AMHPs recently and I’m at a loss as to where it comes from: hence this post.

It concerns the police execution of warrants issued under s135(1) of the Mental Health Act 1983 and whether we must, by law, work out in advance where the person may be removed to. So the exam question is this:

Is it lawful to execute a s135(1) warrant and take the decision to remove someone to a Place of Safety even if nowhere has been pre-identified to act as a PoS under the Act and / or where no bed has been pre-identified for the patient’s admission?

And the answer is: YES, it is lawful.

LAW v POLICY

The cases...

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Police: Somewhere, Out There

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Chief Superintendent John Sutherland is a leader – we know this, because people follow him and listen keenly to what he has to say. That’s all you can judge it on, at the end of the day. He inspires people – he certainly inspired me. No doubt he will continue to do so for many years to come. Who was it that said, “A leader without followers is just somebody else out for a walk”?! I’ve seen plenty of senior people out for a walk on their own, over the years. Mr Sutherland is not one of them and this week, his final days in police service, I want to pay my own small tribute through a medium which we’ve both found key to expressing ourselves – blogging!

It’s been my privilege to spend time in John’s company over the last few years and I’ve enjoyed that immensely. We co-presented at the Superintendent’s Association on policing and mental health – my own perspective on some of the external challenges we face followed by him cautioning his peers on the internal conflicts we face in policing as we try to rise to them....

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Police: Twenty Years and Counting

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

I recently passed a professional and personal milestone, having joined the police service twenty years ago and I hope to receive an email soon outlining I’ve qualified for a Long Service, Good Conduct medal. All things being as they were supposed to be, this would mean I’ve got just ten years left to do before I retire from the service but it will probably end up being about eleven and a half because of pension changes forced upon me and I’ve long since started questioning whether we’ll actually get to the position I want us to be in by the time I do retire. So this post just puts those thoughts down and I’ll look again in a decade as I start to wrap this all up and get on with what’s left of my life.

I started properly piling in to policing and mental health about fifteen years ago, when a Chief Superintendent in West Midlands Police was seeking officers from Birmingham who were interested in doing some extra work to improve policies and procedures across the city, following the merger of two mental health trusts.  I’d been...

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Police: Liable To Be Detained

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

An AMHP and two doctors, one of whom is s12 approved, attend a patient’s home following concerns about their mental health deteriorating. They conclude the patient will require admission to hospital and that admission under s2 of the Mental Health Act will be required – the application is duly made under the Act so the patient is now ‘liable to be detained’, the precursor step to being detained in hospital. The patient is unwilling to travel and for a range of reasons, neither police nor ambulance crews are available to attempt to persuade, influence or effect the admission of the patient to hospital. A decision is taken to leave the patient at home with their family and try against the following day but by then, the bed in to which the patient was to be admitted is no longer available, it having been given to someone else overnight.

The MHA application appears to lie in tatters, but then a bed becomes available at the original hospital to which the application had been made and the ‘exam question’ arises –

How long does someone...

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Police: Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

You’ll remember I’ve been banging on for a number of years now about the problem of people being in police custody for many hours or even for many days, waiting for Mental Health Act assessment, or more usually waiting for a mental health bed in to which they can be admitted after assessment. This noise I’ve been making is now well in to its second decade, in all fairness and I’m bored of hearing myself talk about it. However, we’re starting to get somewhere in the sense that this matter has been raised with the Department of Health and the NHS at national level, who accept the premise that there is a problem. It has also been discussed with Government ministers and questions have been raised in the House of Commons. The BBC even did a news piece about it, just prior to Christmas 2017. So we may be getting somewhere, however slowly.

This post argues that custody sergeants and duty inspectors or superintendents are now much more in the driving seat of some of these issues that they’ve ever been before, because a) we actually...

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Police: Condition Orange

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

On Monday in the House of Commons, questions to the Home Office occupied some of the afternoon. Mental health questions came up and I’ve re-produced two brief exchanges from Hansard for that day. The purpose of doing so is to document the lack of specific understanding that exists on these topics. The Government response is incoherent, given the questions that were asked – none of the three responses below actually address the public policy question inherent in the preceeding question. I’ll let you read the exchange and will then outline why –

Preet Kaur Gill (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

How many people have been unlawfully detained for more than 24 hours while awaiting a mental health assessment in each of the last three years. [903106]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Victoria Atkins).

Provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 ban the use of police cells as places of safety for under-18s, restrict their use for adults and reduce the maximum period of detention to 24 hours. Information on the length of...

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Police: Much Less Blogging

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

You guys seemed to use the BLOG a lot last year, way more than any other single year since I started in 2011 and that was really encouraging on one level. However, I couldn’t help but notice the vast majority of the increased use was down to two things —

  • The series of posts which related to the Policing and Crime Act amendments of the Mental Health Act 1983, introduced in to law last December.
  • A series of posts in which I just said again the same things I’ve said for years, only in light of new events, seeking to ram home the same point as before.

There are now well over 700 posts on here – many of them saying the same thing over and over again and I don’t under-estimate that dripping like a tap is actually a necessary part of drilling home a message, particularly one that doesn’t always sit easily or appear straight-forward, but the essential messages in this blog are simple:

THIS BLOG – KEY ISSUES

  1. We need to take responsibility for understanding the law of the country as it actually is, rather than as it’s rumoured to be.
  2. We...

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Police: AND / OR

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

Compare and contrast the following two pieces of law –

  • Section 136(2) says someone removed to a Place of Safety may be taken there to be examined by a registered medical practitioner and interviewed by an Approved Mental Health Professional; and of making any necessary arrangements for his treatment or care.
  • When you read section 135(1), it says someone may be removed to a Place of Safety with a view to the making of an application under the Act, or of making other arrangements for his treatment or care.

The bold is my emphasis – does it matter that the apparent purpose of one of these Place of Safety orders is interview AND arrangements, whereas the other is interview OR arrangements? … is this a distinction without a difference, or could it be crucial to something?! Both seem to imply the purpose of removing someone to a Place of Safety and we often think of 135(1) as being “like s136 but after a court warrant in someone’s own home”, but does this pedantry amount to anything real?

Since the MHA amendments took effect at the end of last...

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Police: OBE

Written by RSS Poster Mental Health Cop

I wrote this post in June 2016 and simply forgot to publish it. Having had a bit of a BLOG clear-out over Christmas where I’ve binned about thirty part-written blogs where I found myself just banging on again and again about the same old thing.  However there were a couple I decided to keep and this is one of them, just for personal reasons.


I was thrilled to receive a letter in May, indicating that the Prime Minister wished to put forward my name to Her Majesty the Queen, recommending that I be appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to policing and mental health. Since the announcement, I have been smiling broadly and have laughed out loud a few times, overwhelmed by messages of support from frontline police officers as well as mental health professionals and members of the public. I was delighted but surprised to receive three very lovely letters from Chief Constables Phil GORMLEY and Simon COLE as well as Commander Christine JONES – the last three national policing leads on mental health. It has all been truly...

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