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Mental Health and Policing

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 18 December 2014

The Government have today published the report of the Government’s review of the operation of sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. This has been an important piece of work, conducted jointly by the Home Office and the Department of Health.

It is our overarching objective for all public services to respond at the right time to the needs of people experiencing mental health crises. We also need to improve the outcomes for people experiencing mental health crises when they come in to contact with the police. This review showed that there are areas where this is working well and areas where there is still room for improvement.

We have been fortunate that this review took place alongside both the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into policing and mental health and the Health Select Committee’s report into child and adolescent mental health services. This work rightly highlighted the unacceptable state of affairs when a vulnerable child can be held in a police cell at the point of mental health crisis. Police stations must only be used in genuinely exceptional circumstances and never for a child or young person aged under 18. We therefore propose amending legislation to this effect subject to the next Parliament.

The review makes a number of other recommendations. It points out that making better use of alternative places of safety would be advantageous as we recognise that there is not one solution which is appropriate for all people at all times. There was a clear consensus that a maximum period of detention under these sections is too long at 72 hours, and the review therefore proposes reducing this to 24 hours, while still emphasising the need to complete assessments as soon as possible.

Although there is no space remaining in this Parliament to make these changes, I believe there is a general consensus that these issues must be addressed. Therefore I hope that in the next Parliament the momentum that has been generated will be maintained.

The following documents are available as attachments online at:, and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Review of the operation of Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983: Review Report and Recommendations;

Review of the operation of Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983: A Summary of the Evidence;

Review of the operation of Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983: A Literature Review,

The Centre for Mental Health’s report, Review of Sections 135 & 136 of the Mental Health Act: The views of professionals, service users and carers on the codes of practice and legislation.