Mentally Ill Teenage Girl Held In Police Custody Due To NHS Bed Shortage

01/12/2014 11:38 | Updated 20 May 2015

Police station holding cell, Bristol, UK

A senior police officer has lambasted the state of NHS mental healthcare provision after a 16-year-old girl with mental health issues was held in police custody because a bed could not be found for her.

The unnamed teen spent two days in a cell despite not having committed any crime because local authorities could not find a hospital place for her after she was sectioned.

In a series of impassioned tweets, Paul Netherton, Assistant Chief Constable with the Devon and Cornwall Police, denounced the state of affairs which had led to the vulnerable child being held in police custody.

'We have a 16yr old girl suffering from mental health issues held in police custody. There are no beds available in the uk! #unacceptable,' read the first tweet from ACC Netherton's account.

The startling message attracted attention immediately, and was retweeted more than 2000 times. The ACC soon tweeted again in response to concerned Twitter users who asked for more details of the case.

'The 16yr old was detained on Thursday night, sectioned Friday lunchtime and still no place of safety available. This can't be right!' Netherton said, adding: 'Custody on a Fri & Sat night is no place for a child suffering mental health issues. Nurses being sourced to look after her in custody !?!'

A few hours later, Netherton returned to the web to report that NHS England had finally found a suitable place for the troubled schoolgirl, preventing her from spending another night in a holding cell.

'Just heard that a place of care has been found for our 16yr old. Good result,' he wrote, while Twitter users congratulated him for bringing the shocking case to light.

Local MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, a former GP who chairs the House of Commons Health Select Committee, condemned the treatment the teenager had received at the hands of the authorities meant to help her as 'abhorrent'.

Speaking to Sky's Murnaghan programme she said: "Last year there were 30 children in Devon and Cornwall who unfortunately spent a night in a police cell for no reason other than the fact they were experiencing a mental health crisis.

"Clearly it is unacceptable if it happens to anybody, adult or child, but particularly abhorrent that it happens to children."

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