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February 11, 2015updated 12 Feb 2015 4:47pm

Plymouth Herald launches Safer Spaces campaign to reduce number of mental health sufferers being held in police custody

By William Turvill

The Plymouth Herald has this week launched a campaign to push for a reduction in the number of people with mental health issues being held in police custody.

The Safer Spaces campaign has been launched by the title as the Home Affairs Select Committee called for the law to stop police cells being used as "places of safety" by mentally ill people.

Chairman Keith Vaz MP said: “The prevalence of people with mental health illnesses in the criminal justice system is a scandal.

“It is unacceptable that the police should be filling the gap because the NHS does not have the facilities to look after mentally ill people."

On the campaign, Plymouth Herald senior reporter Sam Blackledge, said: “Last year more than 200 people were held in police custody in Plymouth having been detained under Section 135 or 136 of the Mental Health Act, a number which is only falling by a few dozen each year.

“One of the reasons this is happening is that the Glenbourne facility, an acute mental health hospital unit, can only cater for one person at a time. If the suite is in use, the next best ‘place of safety’ is a cell at the city’s police station.

“In a city of about 250,000 residents, the idea that only one at a time can have access to the help they need, while the others must wait behind bars, is nothing short of a scandal.

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“The detention of mentally ill people in police cells cannot go on. We hope our readers and those in positions of power will support this vital campaign.”

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