New report highlights the number of young people with mental health problems who are being held in police cells.

Release date: 11 September 2013

A new report launched 11th September 2013 by Mental Health North East (MHNE) finds that young people with mental health problems are still being held in police cells across the region, despite the stipulations of the Mental Health Act (2007), which states that this should only be done in 'exceptional circumstances', such as when there is a risk of violence.

'In Custody' is a culmination of research carried out to assess the number of young people who were sectioned under the Mental Health Act (section 136) and held in police cells across the North East of England.

MHNE was motivated to carry out the research because they were alarmed at the high numbers of young people experiencing mental health problems who were being detained in police custody, as highlighted by the BBC Freedom of Information request in November 2012, and wished to gain a clearer understanding of how this issue affected young people with mental health problems across the North East of England.

MHNE's research found that all North East Police Forces detained at least one person under the age of 18 in a police cell/custody suite whilst under s136 of Mental Health Act.16 detentions occurred in total.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that, in this region, young people may often be held between four and five hours, or even more. Guidelines from the Royal College of Psychiatrists state that anyone detained under s136 should be in police custody for a maximum of three hours prior to, including and following medical examination as best practice.

MHNE will launch their report during Newcastle City Council's special Policy Cabinet meeting, the theme of which is 'Seeing Newcastle through Young People's Eyes', where young people have been invited to attend and voice their concerns on issues such as youth unemployment, the state of their neighbourhood, bullying, health and relationships directly to City Councillors.

MHNE's Chief Executive Officer, Lyn Boyd commented:

"Whilst we acknowledge that police involvement may be necessary on occasions, for example, when an individual poses a risk to themselves or to the public, we do not believe that a police cell is an appropriate form of accommodation to hold a distressed young person for a sustained period of time.

"We are also concerned that the number of young people experiencing mental health problems detained in police custody across the North East may in fact be higher than that recorded, because our consultations with several youth groups and charities working to support young people with mental health problems, such as Young Minds, have provided us with a lot of anecdotal evidence from young people claiming to have been sectioned in 2011.

"Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and Police Forces across the North East are very keen to work with us to address our concerns and we have been very encouraged by their willingness to engage with our research. We will continue to monitor this situation and work with all parties to tackle the issues raised in our report.

"MHNE is very grateful to Newcastle City Council for allowing us to launch our report as part of their Policy Cabinet meeting and we applaud them for holding this meeting, which will allow young people voice their concerns.

"This report has been researched and written by the youngest member of our team - Andrew Cummings – that, in itself, is a testament to youth and what young people are capable of when properly listened to, supported and trusted."
Sara Bryson, Newcastle Youth Council, added:

"We welcome the report from Mental Health North East, which shines a light on the experiences of young people who are being held in police cells under section 136 of the Mental Health Act in our region. The report highlights the negative impact that such detention can have on young people. The report includes robust regional evidence and clear recommendations to address the situation. It is encouraging to see that all of the North East Police Forces and respective Commissioners are working with Mental Health North East and young people to make improvements."

MHNE is currently trying to gather further evidence to present to PCCs on this issue and would like anyone who knows a young person who has been sectioned to complete a short online survey:
Anyone who does not have access to the internet can contact MHNE on: 0191 4928235. This can be done anonymously.


Notes to Editors:

1. Link to MHNE's 'In Custody' Report

2. The Mental Health Act (2007) stipulates that when someone is sectioned, using a section 136, they should be taken to a hospital, community venue or other similar location to be assessed for mental health problems. In exceptional circumstances, such as when an individual is violent, police custody may be used as a last resort until an assessment can take place.

3. A Freedom of Information request carried out by the BBC in November 2012 alerted Mental Health North East (MHNE) that 347 young people were detained in police custody under the Mental Health Act (2007) across the UK in 2011 (some for more than 24 hours).

4. Link to BBC article

5. Link to MHNE survey

This release was issued by Jane Byrne at The Communications Cooperative. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 07794 290 176.