Mental health, vulnerability and risk in police custody

Maggie Leese, Sean Russell

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    Purpose: The issue of mental health and policing is a subject that has been debated from a number of different perspectives. The purpose of this paper is to report on the findings of a case study that explored mental health difficulties and vulnerability within police custody. Design/Methodology/approach: The design of the study was qualitative, and it utilised telephone semi-structured interviews with all levels of the custody staff. This approach was taken because the aim of the study was to explore how people in different roles within the organisation, worked to safeguard vulnerable people in custody. Findings: The findings from this study identified a number of interesting themes that could be explored further in later studies. Overall the respondents expressed frustration that vulnerable people find themselves in police custody for low-level crime when it could have been avoided with improved mental health services in the community. Additionally, the findings demonstrated that despite the processes that are designed to safeguard the detainee, tensions still exist including, timely access to mental health assessments, appropriate training and support for staff, and the use of appropriate adults. Research limitations/implications: Although the study was small in scale, the custody facility delivered detainee facilities for about 5000 individuals per year. The research and information obtained supported the Force lead to identify opportunities for improving the customer journey as well as further research to identify how officers and staff relate to vulnerable individuals in contact with the police service Practical implications: Social implications: Originality/value: Despite the limitations of the study, the findings have captured interesting data from a range of professionals working in one police custody suite and therefore it presents a holistic overview of some key issues around mental health, vulnerability and safeguarding within the context of police custody.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)-
    JournalThe Journal of Adult Protection
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2017


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