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GMP Federation

Changes to the mental health act have assisted decision-making in custody, says Federation Custody Lead

13 September 2019

The detention of people with mental health illnesses is a major issue for custody officers at Greater Manchester Police, the force’s Federation has said.

Matt Black, Federation Custody Lead, said: “The recent changes to the Mental Health Act have assisted us in our decision-making and our ability to deal more appropriately with the people who are suffering mental ill-health, such as our ability to remove them from a police station to a more appropriate setting.

“There’s probably still some way to go on initial decision-making as to what the most appropriate place is to take people with mental health. But I do think things are improving and we are getting there.”

Matt, who has has been in custody at the force for ten years, was speaking at the Police Federation of England and Wales’ Annual Custody Seminar in Hinckley, Leicestershire this week.

The conference heard from custody officers at the Met, where a pioneering programme had seen youth intervention work reducing reoffending. The DIVERT scheme trialled in Brixton, Croydon, Wood Green, Stoke Newington, Bethnal Green and Lewisham sees custody intervention coaches helping young offenders seek employment. Of the 320 young people who have been through the scheme since 2015, only 7% out of the 320 have reoffended.

Matt said: “It is an interesting idea - particularly with the way that it’s sitting outside the criminal justice system. The way we’ve traditionally done it is more of a carrot and stick approach where we seek to divert people not just away from their criminal lifestyles, but in so doing attempt to divert them out of the criminal justice system and away from the courts.

“The advantage of that being that it saves the cost of court trials, protects people who maybe otherwise haven’t got a criminal record from getting one if they’re prepared to go on the straight and narrow. So it was an interesting difference in approach. I’d be interested to see how that one pans out when it’s rolled out nationwide.”

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