An independent commission will scrutinize the past five years of cases where people with mental health conditions have either died in police custody or been injured. The commission will primarily examine police interactions and procedures.
The independent commission will be led by Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of the social enterprise Turning Point. Members of the commission will include a variety of mental health specialists and chief executives including Patrick Vernon, former CEO of The Afiya Trust.
Mr Vernon explained that he would like to use his experience as a health professional and community activist to improve services and relations between the police and communities.
He said: “This Commission has the potential to explore issues concerning families and activists on the issue of the increasing cases of people with mental health problems who die in police custody. I am on the Commission to identify solutions so that we can build and explore how more trust between the police and particularly from the African Caribbean community where there have been a number of high profile cases and inquests.”
Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said that he comissioned the independent review because a number of cases raised concerns regarding how police respond to people with mental health conditions. I want to know that we are doing everything we can to get this right. That is why I’ve commissioned this independent review.”
The independent commission will review police procedures and interaction in many of the cases that will be scrutinized. Many families whose relatives have died or have been injured in during police procedures will have an opportunity to share their experiences with the commission.
Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive of the social enterprise Turning Point, will lead the Commission together with a number of independent experts and the ACPO lead for mental health.
Lord Victor Adebowale said: “What is important is to get to the truth of the matter and remove any excuses for not taking the chance to improve practice. I enter this review, careful to have an open mind, with clarity of focus and to be driven by the facts.”
“I am determined that the work of the review will lead to clear and actionable recommendations,” he continued.
Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK (BMH UK), raised concern over the exclusion of experts such as BMH UK, arguing that a critical insight is needed “to ensure the transformation in police treatment of this vulnerable group”.
She said: “Black Mental Health UK is the only organisation in the mental health sector that has been working in the area of deaths in custody, mental health and the impact on ethnic minorities for the past few years. This is the area where the death rates and most disturbing incidences involving the police and mental health service users occur.
A report of the commission’s recommendations will be produced and presented to MPS in February 2013.