11 November 2015

Police guidance on mental health goes public for consultation

Draft guidance for police in handling people in mental health crisis was published today by the College of Policing.


The College of Policing has published new draft national guidance clarifying the police's role in dealing with incidents involving people in mental health crisis.

The draft Authorised Professional Practice (APP) is now open for consultation and sets out guidance for police officers and staff when investigating an offence or assisting people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and difficulties and other vulnerabilities.

The draft guidance is designed to;

  • support officers in making decisions in the best interests of the individual
  • provide guidance on de-escalation techniques to help minimise the use of restraint
  • break down all relevant legislation (including Mental Health Act 1983 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005)
  • provide information on identifying mental vulnerability
  • outline what is known about the most effective and considerate ways of communicating with vulnerable people, recognising their individual needs and providing an appropriate police response
  • provide advice on multi-agency information sharing and working arrangements
  • clearly set out the scope and nature of police involvement when assisting healthcare and social services

College of Policing lead for uniformed policing, Richard Bennett, said: "In the past, we have seen people with mental health crisis detained in police custody because there is nowhere else available and agencies are unclear on who has the responsibility for this. Clearly when no crime has been committed, it cannot be right for someone who is unwell to be in police custody.

"We are looking for feedback on this draft Authorised Professional Practice, which collates new and existing guidance on dealing with incidents involving people with mental health problems and learning disabilities.

"It's important that all officers and staff have a working knowledge of mental health and the ability to effectively communicate with members of the public.

"However, the College is clear that, while it is of course a police duty to deal with any offences committed and protect the public from harm, it is the responsibility of health and welfare agencies to assist those in mental health crisis.

"While there will always be exceptional circumstances, often the police have to step in to pick up the pieces where other services are unavailable.

"This guidance is designed to encourage better cooperation between the police and other agencies and provide clarity about roles and responsibilities to best protect people suffering from mental health problems."

The consultation is open until 1 January, 2016 and is available for download.

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