London

Met Police 'must review handling of mentally ill suspects'

Sean Rigg
Image caption Sean Rigg died at Brixton police station

An review of the way the Metropolitan Police deals with mentally ill suspects has identified a series of failings.

The Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing urges the Met to improve procedures for using force, dealing with calls and keeping records.

It reviewed 55 cases - five of which were deaths in custody - involving people with mental health issues over the past five years.

The Met said it accepted the recommendations.

Of the 55 cases, five were deaths in police custody and 45 were deaths either prior to or following contact with the police.

The other five cases resulted in serious injury.

A key finding was people with mental health issues complained they were "treated like criminals by the police" and were handled with "too much force".

'Real opportunity'

Commission chair Lord Adebowale said: "I hope that those who receive this report ensure that the recommendations are implemented in the name of the families who have lost loved ones in terrible circumstances.

"They deserve the reassurance that other families will not suffer the same loss.

"The commission has sought to provide actionable recommendations, so that there is a real opportunity for the Metropolitan Police Service [MPS] to change their approach significantly to those with mental health issues in their everyday policing.

"The report acknowledges that the MPS cannot do all of this on its own."

The report also recommended the London Ambulance Service needed to respond to individuals with "a clear mental health crisis" as an emergency even if the police were present.

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "Lord Adebowale's report provides powerful evidence of the challenges that mental health issues present to the Metropolitan Police.

'Unsuitable' force

"It sets out clearly the frequency with which our officers are asked to support people at times of mental health crisis.

"I set up this commission to help us improve the way we deal with these challenges. We now have an opportunity to make significant progress.

"Broadly, I can say that I accept the recommendations the commission has made."

Sean Rigg, 40, who was schizophrenic, died from cardiac arrest at Brixton police station in August 2008.

Last year an inquest jury found officers had used "unsuitable" force after arresting Mr Rigg before his death on 21 August 2008.

Following the inquest, the Met apologised "unreservedly" and the IPCC launched a review of the case.

One retired officer and two serving officers have been arrested as part of the investigation into Mr Rigg's death.

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