AM concerned over support for people detained under mental health legislation

Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood has written to Health and Social Services Minister Edwina Hart asking her to assess how social services, hospitals and the police are working together to ensure the appropriate support for people who have to be detained under mental health legislation.

A report in today’s Western Mail states that “information disclosed to Leanne Wood by South Wales Police has revealed that, in the three years to 2009, 507 people in the force area were arrested under the provisions of the Mental Health Act. Collectively they spent nearly 7,300 hours in custody – an average of more than 14 hours in a cell.”

Ms Wood told the paper: “It is important to recognise the very complex nature of mental health problems, particularly when these patients need to be moved to a place of safety. I am concerned by the high numbers of people who are detained in police custody rather than in the care of medical professionals.

“These are vulnerable people who need and should get support rather than criminalisation.”

Responding to Ms Wood’s views South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Matt Jukes said: “South Wales Police is committed to the work taking place locally and nationally to provide the safest environment for those in our custody and care, whilst ensuring individuals whose key need is for health support receive that as quickly as possible.”

Penny Cram, Criminal Justice Lead Officer of the Welsh mental health charity Hafal, stressed that nobody with a serious mental illness should be held for extended periods¬†in a police or prison cell. She said: “If someone has those symptoms there should be timely and effective mechanisms to move them out of prison into mental health services.”

To read today’s news story in full please visit: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2010/07/07/too-many-mentally-ill-people-held-in-police-custody-91466-26800673/

For information on Hafal’s Criminal Justice Link Service project please visit: http://www.hafal.org/hafal/criminaljusticelinkservice.php