cell doorMany young people with mental ill health are still being held in police cells across the northeast of England, despite the stipulations of the Mental Health Act (MHA) that this should only be done in ‘exceptional circumstances’, a report from Mental Health North East (MHNE) has found.

‘In Custody’ is a culmination of research carried out to assess the number of young people who were held in police cells across the region under section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
The charity's research found that 16 detentions occurred with all North East Police Forces detaining at least one person under the age of 18 in a police cell/custody suite while under a section 136 in the past year.

Guidelines from the Royal College of Psychiatrists state that anyone detained under section 136 should be in police custody for a maximum of three hours prior to, including and following medical examination as best practice.

Inappropriate form of accommodation

MHNE’s chief executive officer, Lyn Boyd, said: "While 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 northeast 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 YoungMinds, 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 northeast 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."

Shine a light on the experiences of young people

MHNE launched its report during Newcastle City Council’s special Policy Cabinet meeting, where young people also attended and voiced their concerns on issues such as youth unemployment, the state of their neighbourhood, bullying, health and relationships directly to councillors.

Sara Bryson from 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 gathering 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: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BBFJJFZ/