BMH UK is the only agency working in the mental health sector that has submitted evidence on how mental health service users are treated by the police to this Parliamentary inquiry. Their submission covers the issues of policing, mental health, ethnicity and deaths in custody.
They have also set out their concerns over the use of prone restraint, Tasers, IPCC complaints procedure, police presence on psychiatric wards and the need for independent scrutiny of suspicious deaths of mental health service users.
BMH UK’s oral evidence on these issues, which will be heard on Tuesday is part of the human rights campaigns group’s efforts to ensure that the treatment of vulnerable service users by the police and issue of deaths in custody as it relates to mental health services users and ethnic minorities is included on the agenda of the HASC inquiry into the IPCC.
People who use mental health services account for 50% of those who lose their lives in police custody, and it is in the area of mental health and policing that many of the most serious causes for complaints against the police occur.
Detention rates under the Mental Health Act continue to be highest for people from the UK’s African Caribbean communities, even though there isn’t a high prevalence of mental illness amongst this group. Black people are currently 50% more likely to be referred to mental health services via the police than their white counterparts.
The high profile, deaths in police custody, cases of Kingsley Burell-Brown, Sean Rigg, Olaseni Lewis Colin Holt, Mikey Powell and Roger Sylvester are all evidence of the failures in policing of mental health services users, which is impacting people from Briton’s black communities in greatest numbers.
Mental health service users also account for 61% of all deaths of those detained by the state, but currently there is no independent body established for investigating these fatalities.
Matilda MacAttram director of Black Mental Health UK said: ‘The unsatisfactory way in which a long line of complaints involving high profile police deaths in custody of people from this community has been dealt with over the years has shattered faith in the belief that the IPCC is an independent body with the ability to investigate complaints made against the police without bias.
In light of this, BMH UK is using this opportunity to give evidence to the commission to highlight the pressing need for a judicial review into how all deaths in custodial settings are handled.
We are also using this opportunity to call for the establishment of an independent agency to investigate preventable death of those detained under the Mental Health Act.’