11th February 2016

Using a police cell as a ‘place of safety’ for a young person under 18 years of age in mental health crisis is to be banned under forthcoming legislation in the Policing and Crime Bill.

The legislation will also restrict the use of police cells as a place of safety for adults too, including reducing the maximum duration of detention for the purposes of an assessment under the Mental Health Act from 72 to 24 hours.

This is taking forward a Conservative manifesto pledge to ensure proper provision of places of safety for people in mental health crisis. The Government accepts that police cells are a poor environment for any person experiencing a mental health crisis as they can make service users feel criminalised and exacerbate levels of distress.

There has been an almost 50% reduction in the use of police cells as a place of safety in England and Wales between 2011/12 and 2014/15, but progress is variable across the country with five police force areas accounting for more than half of all uses of police cells. Additionally, in 2014/15 more than 150 children and young people were detained in police cells.