Figures reveal children held in police cells under Mental Health Act

The following is an item from Hafal’s Big Lottery-funded Young People’s Information Hub. To access the Hub please visit:

Figures obtained by the BBC have revealed that police in England and Wales placed 347 children they thought were mentally ill in police cells during 2011.

The Mental Health Act allows police to take anyone they suspect of being mentally ill to a safe place for assessment. Places of safety for children referred to in the Mental Health Act could include adolescent psychiatric units or children’s homes. However, if a place is not available locally they can, unfortunately, end up in police cells.

Responding to the figures the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said that in some parts of the UK police cells are the only option.

Hafal’s Young People’s Information Officer John Gilheaney said: “Putting children with a serious mental illness in police cells will only exacerbate their problems.”

The UK Government’s Department for Health told the BBC it was developing better procedures to ensure young people get appropriate care.

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