Skip to main content

Mental Health Assessments: Detention

Volume 634: debated on Monday 8 January 2018

6. 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)

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 time for which people are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 pending an assessment is not held by the Home Office, but we are seeking to ascertain the scale and nature of this issue and we are reviewing the available information that we were provided with last month by the College of Policing.

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the police have just 24 hours to hold someone with a mental illness. The College of Policing shared with the BBC last December the fact that 264 people were held for longer than this, including a mentally ill child who was held for five days. Is the Home Secretary aware of this report, and what steps have been taken to remedy the situation?

Very much so, and I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important issue. We know that there is an issue in this area, and she will be pleased to know that her constabulary—the West Midlands—in fact does very well on this. It did not use police cells at all for such detentions last year; indeed, since 2013 it has used them on only 14 occasions. Of course, however, any such occasion is one occasion too many. She will I am sure join me in being pleased that the use of police stations as places of safety nearly halved last year, but we need to do more.

Does the Minister agree that a police cell or a police station is not a suitable place for an innocent person suffering from mental health problems, and will she support initiatives such as the mental health triage projects in the West Midlands to make sure that people with mental health problems get the medical support they need when they need it?

Very much so. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that health places were used as places of safety in more than 26,000 cases last year, compared with 1,029 cases of using cells, but we are determined to try to sort this out.

On the question of detention, the Minister will have read recent reports that immigration detainees are being paid £1 an hour. Will the Minister assure the House that no children are currently being held in detention, that no pregnant women are currently being held in detention and that no one is being paid below the legal minimum wage in any of the immigration detention centres?

As I say, we are determined to ensure that places of safety are in appropriate places—health places—and we are investing £30 million to try to ensure that happens. If there are any individual cases that the right hon. Lady would like to bring to my attention, I will of course consider and review them very carefully.