Independent Commission's Public Consultation on Mental Health and Policing

The police have many roles in our society but we cannot deny that one of their central duties is to protect the most vulnerable individuals and this includes those with mental health issues.

The police have many roles in our society but we cannot deny that one of their central duties is to protect the most vulnerable individuals and this includes those with mental health issues. I am currently chairing the independent commission into mental health and policing, the overall purpose of which is to carry out an independent examination of cases of death or serious injury of people with a mental illness, after contact with police within the last five years. The importance of this issue cannot be underestimated; neither can its complexity. To this end the wider commission panel have been chosen for their wealth of experience in, to name but a few disciplines, crime, mental health, law and policing.

Including myself, there are thirteen members of the commission. We have Professor Louis Appleby, Director of the national confidential inquiry into suicide and homicide by people with mental illness, National Clinical Director for Health and Criminal Justice at the Department of Health and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manchester. We also have Professor Tony Maden, Emeritus Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Imperial College London. Dave Mellish, Chair of Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and Chair of the London Mental Health Chairs Group; Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, President of The Law Society and specialist in mental health law and Patrick Vernon who is an expert in BME health and social care and equalities issues.

We also have Dr Ruth Allen, Director of Social Work at South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust and Chair of the Faculty of Mental Health at the College of Social Work; Simon Cole, Chief Constable of Leicestershire Constabulary and ACPO lead for mental health; Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind; Professor Betsy Stanko, Assistant Director of Corporate Development at the MPS who is providing research support ; Claire Murdoch, Chief Executive of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust and a registered mental health nurse. Additionally we have two independent consultants, Melba Wilson, who has over 20 years experience working in the health and social care sector and Rowena Daw, a qualified lawyer who was previously Head of Policy at Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The review is very much a team effort, entirely independent and we take our engagement with other groups, and of course the families of those involved, very seriously.

I would stress that the review isn't only about deaths in custody, neither is it a race review, although both these issues will form a central part of our response. The issue of deaths in custody is currently being looked at by the cross government review being carried out by Lord Harris. Of course we will be engaging with Lord Harris' review but we will be looking more widely at improving the police response to all incidents involving mental health.

We want to produce a report that has concrete, actionable recommendations. These recommendations will be there to help improve the Metropolitan Police Service response to people with mental health conditions and to help prevent similar incidents that we have already seen occurring again in the future. No-one involved in the commission wants to produce a report which has limited impact on the behaviour and actions of the police. If any of our recommendations aren't taken up the Commissioner has agreed that the MPS will explain why this is the case.

We need and want to hear your views. A public consultation, open to anyone who wants to share their views about mental health and policing in reference to the Metropolitan Police Service in London, is currently running. As Chair of the commission I would urge as many people as possible to respond. This is not something that happens to 'other people', it is part of our society and we need to ensure that the public voice, as well as that of relevant organisations and interested individuals, is heard. Our purpose is to ensure that the police response is improved so that the most vulnerable in society are treated with the care, compassion and respect that they deserve, anything less is unacceptable.


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