Mental health service users from the UK’s African Caribbean communities have very high contact with the police, particularly when in crisis. This makes the current review of police powers in the area of mental health care of particular importance to this group.
The recent high profile tragic fatalities of black men in police custody while in need of mental health care have raised concerns within this community over the levels of force that has been used against this group when custody.
The two proposed community engagements seminars organised by BMH UK for the Home Office and Department of Health will enable the views of those directly affected by this issues, but who would not otherwise not engage with this process, to be fed into the review of the Police’s S135 and S 136 powers.
Delegates invited to this event include: mental health service users from the UK’s African Caribbean communities, carers, relatives, health, social care and policing professionals and representatives from third sector organisations who provide advice and support to this group.
Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said : ‘The Government review of section 135 and 136 powers of the Mental Health Act is of particular significance to people from the UK’s African as data shows that it is black people are more likely to be referred to mental health services via the police.
The use of a police cell as a ‘place of safety’ for anyone detained under the Mental Health Act is an issue of major concern as research by the IPCC shows that 50% of people who lose their lives in police custody are mental health service users.
BMH UK are of the view that the use of police cells as a ‘place of safety’ has no place in mental health care and current use of police powers under S135/136 raise concerns under international human rights law.’
Saundra Glenn chair Luton Independent Advisory Group to Bedforshire Police & Interim vice chair of the African Caribbean Strategic Partnership said: ‘Taking part in this Home Office review is a timely and fitting opportunity for members of the Luton community to input its voice, into the review on the use of police powers under Sections 135 and 136.
The use of both sections feature heavily for us here since the death of Leon Briggs at Luton Police Station in the custody of Bedfordshire Police last November. Leon’s 8 month anniversary is on the 4th of July and he was detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act but his family confirmed that he did not have any history of mental health issues.
It may be that this review of current legislation will aid the police and its safeguarding partners towards improved practices which will change the policing and increase public confidence about this tragic area in UK police history. Local parties are united towards making deaths in custody a thing of the past.