Fewer police cells are being used to hold people with mental health problems

19 October 2016
What was claimed

The number of people being taken to police cells under mental health legislation has more than halved.

Our verdict

Correct. This continues a falling trend over several years.

“The number of people who are having to be taken to a police cell as a place of safety... overall I think it’s more than halved, in some areas it’s come down even more than that.”

Theresa May, 19 October 2016

This is correct. The use of police cells as a place of safety under mental health legislation more than halved in the last year, from 4,357 in 2014/15 to 2,100 in 2015/16.

The Mental Health Act 1983 allows the police to detain certain people in ‘places of safety’ if they show signs of mental health problems and are in immediate need of care or control. There’s been controversy over the extensive use of police cells for this—as opposed to hospitals—in recent years.

The fall in the last year continues a falling trend over the last five years. Back in 2011 more than a third of all detentions were to a police cell, as opposed to a medical facility. Now 8% are sent to a police cell.

Not all areas follow the trend. In Avon and Somerset, for example, the use of police cells has risen, as has the total number of detentions under the Act.

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