UK Police threaten legal action over lack of mental health beds
A chief constable has vowed to stop “unlawfully” holding people with a mental illness in police cells because the NHS has no beds for them.
Shaun Sawyer, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, wrote to Devon Partnership NHS Trust to say it would be held to account in future.
The letter, leaked to the Express and Echo, says legal action may be taken if the situation is not resolved.
The trust said it was disappointed, but accepted more needed to be done.
Mr Sawyer said while it was “unedifying” to sue a public body, he would do so if necessary.
More on this story and other Devon and Cornwall news
“It’s contingent and hopefully something that would never occur because it’s public money,” he told BBC News.
Mr Sawyer said the number of “136 detentions” – where police can remove someone they believe to be mentally ill to a place of safety – has reduced, but the current situation was unacceptable.
He claims beds are “not being made available effectively, speedily or efficiently in enough cases”.
“If somebody comes to harm, technically I’m holding them in those cells unlawfully.”