Half of those who die in police custody have a mental illness

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has announced figures showing that half of those who die in police custody have a mental illness.

“A police cell is clearly not a place of safety for people with mental illness, but far too often these days it is the only facility available which means unacceptable risks are being run every day of the week,” said John Crawley, IPCC Commissioner for the West Midlands and the IPCC’s national lead on mental health issues, who hosted a Conference on policing and mental illness this week.

“There are many other serious complaints that also involve people with mental health needs, and we are keen to ensure that the new complaints system is accessible and responsive to their needs.”

Bill Walden-Jones, Chief-Executive of Welsh charity Hafal, welcomed the Commissioner’s call for better emergency services.

“What we would like to see is the provision of more emergency facilities in hospitals or another suitable location for people with a mental illness so that they do not end up in a police cell – which the figures show is far from being a safe place for them,” he commented.

“The draft Mental Health Bill which is currently being scrutinized should undoubtedly take these findings into account. People with a mental illness need rights to proper and timely treatment and should not end up in a cell because there is nowhere else for them.”