3 Detention of children under s. 136|
31. In 2013-14, a total of 753 children were detained
under section 136. Of these, 236 were detained in a police cell.
This represents a reduction in absolute terms on the previous
year, 2012-13, when 263 children were detained in cells.
However, a child under 18 detained under s. 136 is statistically
more likely than an adult to end up in a police station.
The table below shows the five forces with the highest number
of children detained in police cells in 2013-14.
|Children detained under s136 and held in a police cell
|Devon and Cornwall
32. There is a consensus that children should not be held in police
cells under s. 136. Children are more vulnerable than adults,
and they present mental health illness differently than adults.
Half of the people who have lifetime mental health problems first
experience symptoms by the age of 14, and three-quarters before
their mid-20s. Young
people who come into contact with the youth justice system have
higher rates of mental disorders, including self-harm and suicidal
behaviours, than those who do not.
A recent Health Committee report into Children's and adolescents
mental health and CAMHS said that it would be "unthinkable"
for children experiencing a crisis in their physical health to
be held in a police cell because of a lack of an appropriate hospital
bed, and it should be regarded as a "never event" for
those in mental health crisis.
The Government review of sections 135 and 136 said that the legislation
would be amended so that under-18s would never be taken to a police
cell under s. 136. Norman Lamb told us that the detention of children
in police cells was unacceptable and that he, alongside the Minister
for Policing, would be writing to "every area of the country"
to make it "clear that the practice should end now."
Exclusion due to age
33. The CQC's map of places of safety found that 56 (35%) of the
161 health-based places of safety do not accept young people under
the age of 16, and
16% do not accept those aged 16 and 17. For example, there are
no health-based places of safety that accept someone under the
age of 16 within Avon.
As with provision for adults, what facilities do exist often have
space for only one person. If it is occupied, then the police
have to look elsewhere, and this is compounded when the nearest
health-based place of safety, designated for adults, refuses to
take the child because they consider their facilities to be inappropriate.
We were told of numerous examples of the police spending hours
trying to locate somewhere other than a police cell.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has made it clear that children
should not be excluded from a health-based place of safety because
it does not have a separate assessment space for under-18s. The
Code of Practice states that a child can be detained in a place
of safety not specifically designated for under-18s, "if
this is assessed to be a suitable environment for the child or
young person at that time, given the particular circumstances."
34. The fact that children are still detained in police cells
under section 136 reflects a clear failure of commissioning by
NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups. The de facto use of police
cells as an alternative relieves the pressure on CCGs to commission
appropriate levels of provision for children experiencing mental-health
crisis. We support the Government's proposals for a change in
the law to ensure that children can never be held in a police
cell under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983, which we
recommend should be included in the next Queen's Speech. In the
interim, guidance on the detention of children in police cells
under s. 136 must be made clearthat it is unacceptable
and must stop. This guidance needs to be distributed to those
working in the police and in the health service.
35. The fact that a place of safety is attached
to an adult ward should not preclude its use for children, particularly
when the alternative is a prison cell. The Mental Health Act Code
of Practice is clear on this point, and we recommend that the
Department of Health draw this to the attention of all providers
of health-based places of safety.
61 Health and Social Care Information Centre, Inpatients formally detained in hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983, and patients subject to supervised community treatment: Annual report, England, 2013/14,
October 2014; Howard League for Penal Reform (PMH0050) Back
Royal College of Psychiatrists (PMH0038), para 8.10 Back
Care Quality Commission. A safer place to be, October 2014, page
Health and Social Care Information Centre, Inpatients formally detained in hospitals under the Mental Health Act 1983, and patients subject to supervised community treatment: Annual report, England, 2013/14,
October 2014 Back
NHS England (PMH0055) Back
Royal College of Psychiatrists (PMH0038) Back
Health Committee, Third Report of Session 2014-15, Children's and adolescents' mental health and CAMHS,
HC 342 Back
Q 289 Back
Care Quality Commission data on the number of places of safety
in each local authority, their opening hours, capacity, and age
restrictions is on the Care Quality Commission website. Back
Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Police and Crime Commissioner (PMH0032)
See, for example, Q 248 Back
Royal College of Psychiatrists Supplementary (PMH0058), para 2.2 Back