Mentally Ill Need More Protection in Police Custody

Expert Lawyer Says ‘Prison Not A Substitute For Hospital’


Public law experts have welcomed a review into the treatment of mentally ill people in police control after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said there was a deeper problem regarding deaths in custody.

The issue has been highlighted in relation to the death of a schizophrenic man, Sean Rigg, in custody at Brixton police station. The IPCC said he was not subject to a mental health risk assessment and officers did not respond to or recognise his condition. It said there were missed opportunities in the way he was dealt with while in custody which could have changed the outcome.

The organisation also said an external review of the IPCC's own investigation into the death is being commissioned, which will help the overall review of deaths following contact with police officers which is due to start in September.

Half of all deaths in police custody in 2011/12 were of people with mental illness and expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell say more needs to be done by the Police and health authorities to protect them.

Ifti Manzoor, a specialist lawyer who has represented the families of those who have died in custody, said: “There clearly needs to be better protection for mentally ill people in Police custody as they are often vulnerable individuals who need specialist treatment. The IPCC has highlighted that there is a link between people with mental conditions and deaths in custody calling it a deeper problem.

“It has been noted by the IPCC that in the case of Sean Rigg there were missed opportunities from both the Police and health authorities which may have led to a different outcome. Hopefully this review will outline what lessons can be learnt to prevent this happening again.

“We welcome the decision by the IPCC to undertake a review which needs to assess what more can be done to protect people who come into contact with the police.  A police station is no substitute for a hospital and people who are mentally ill need to have access to the appropriate support and treatment they need.”