A Criminal Use of Police Cells?, HM Inspectorates of Constabulary and Prisons, Care Quality Commission and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (Crown) 2013, pp. 59 (ISBN: 978-1-78246-147-0)

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In England and Wales more than 9,000 people were held under the Mental Health Act (section 136) and placed in police cells during 2011-2012, despite codes of practice that stipulate that this should only occur in the most exceptional circumstances.

This research is based on fieldwork in nine areas: Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, North Wales, Suffolk and Sussex as well as the London Metropolitan boroughs of Bromley and Lewisham.

The report says that people experiencing a mental health crisis are regularly detained in police custody as a 'place of safety', rather than in a health setting, and that in over 80% of cases the cause for detention was that the person had either attempted suicide or self-harm, or indicated that they were thinking of doing so.

The report calls for changes to ensure that fewer people with mental disorders end up in police custody and it makes a number of recommendations, including improving training and monitoring of the use of section 136.

It also calls for commissioners of health, mental health and social services to ensure that resources are in place to receive people detained under section 136 in a health-based setting. The report is available here (pdf).

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