London Assembly Police and Crime Committee to look at mental health and policing

The London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee meeting set to take place on Thursday 21 November at City Hall will look at the issue of mental health and policing in the capital, and will be taking evidence from a range of experts including Black Mental Health UK’s (BMH UK) director Matilda MacAttram.

The recent spate of fatalities of mental health service users, who have lost their lives after coming in contact with the police, has kept the issue of how this vulnerable group are treated by officers when in crisis in the news.

With the community and health campaigners are still reeling from the news of the tragic deaths of Leon Briggs, on Monday 4th November, followed by the Terry Smith on Tuesday 12th following contact with the police, this forum offers the opportunity to raise concerns over current practice by both mental health providers as well as officers on the street that is resulting in these tragedies.

In a written submission to the City Hall’s Police and Crime Committee ahead of this week’s meeting BMH UK outlined how much of the bad practice in the capital is hitting people from London’s black communities hardest.

This document also outlines key areas of concern, setting out recommendations that BMH UK hopes that the PCC will call for both the police and mental health services to implement so that the treatment of this vulnerable group is improved.

The submission states: ‘BMH UK has observed that it is in the area of mental health and policing where the most tragic outcomes occur. This is borne out by data from the IPCC which shows that 50% of fatalities which occur in police custody are of mental health service users.

There is a commonly held view among the capital’s African Caribbean communities that police cells are not a place of safety, in fact they have the opposite effect, with a lot of black men dying in police cells and families never actually have a satisfactory answer as to why. The recent tragic cases of Olaseni Lewis, Kingsley Burrell-Brown and Leon Briggs have reinforced this view.’

The areas covered in BMH UK’s recommendations to City Hall’s PCC include: questions over the use of handcuffs on vulnerable mental health service users in crisis, the 30% increase in the police use of Taser against this group, the use of police vehicles to transport people to hospital, the high use of police custody cells in parts of London with the largest African Caribbean populations, the presence of TSG (Territorial Support Group) riot police on wards and the need for independent investigations into serious incidents involving the police on mental health wards.

Open to the public, the Police and Crime Committee hearing takes place at 10.00am in Committee Room 5, at City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1.

Experts invited to speak to this committee include:

• Matilda MacAttram, director Black Mental Health UK

• Commander Christine Jones, Metropolitan Police Service

• Marie Snelling, Director of IOM, Programmes and Neighbourhoods, MOPAC

• Dr Alison Frater, Head of Public Health and Health in the Justice System

• David Mellish, Chair, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust

• Claire Murdoch, CEO, Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust

Media and members of the public are invited to attend this event, and this meeting can also be viewed via webcast at this link here. http://www.london.gov.uk/mayor-assembly/london-assembly/webcasts

Date: Thursday, 21 November

Time: 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room 5, at City Hall, The Queen’s Walk London SE1.


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