16 August 2018
The Mental Welfare Commission today published
a report on police use of place of safety orders in Scotland.
These orders can be used by the police to detain a mentally
distressed person for up to 24 hours so they can be assessed by a
The new report follows a monitoring exercise that showed an
increase in reported use of this power, from 130 orders in 2006/07,
to 1,133 in 2016/17.
The work involved examining data, interviewing police officers
across Scotland, and interviewing people who had been detained by
Colin McKay, Chief Executive, Mental Welfare Commission for
"Our interviews with the police and with people who had been
subject to a place of safety order revealed a high level of care
and compassion from the officers involved. We welcome this, and
commend Police Scotland's approach.
"Reasons for the rise in numbers could not be determined. It may
be due to better reporting of the statistics by the police,
although it could simply be due to a greater use of the orders.
"We made five recommendations for change - for NHS Boards and
services, Integrated Joint Boards, Police Scotland and the Scottish
Government, and will follow those through. We are also aware of new
initiatives being taken by Police Scotland in recent months.
"We welcome the priority given in the Government's Mental Health
Strategy to people experiencing acute distress. We hope that this
will lead to better options being developed by the NHS and local
- High levels of care and professionalism shown by police
officers towards often highly distressed individuals, who were at
risk of self harm.
- The vast majority of people subject to a place of safety order
- 92% - were not judged by the doctors who assessed them as having
to be detained in hospital.
- There were significant variations in the use of, or reporting
of, place of safety orders across Scotland, with Highland recording
the highest number, followed by Orkney, then Grampian.
- There seemed to be some lack of local co-ordination in the
response to the distressed individual, and often large amounts of
police time were involved.
- Over 95% of removals were to a hospital, with fewer than 5% to
a police station.
- Of the 14 people who were held in a police station, 12 were
from one health board area.
Variations in the use of place of safety orders across health
board areas may relate to the availability - or lack of
availability - of community triage or related services, or may be
due to the efficacy of the reporting process in some areas. The
report recommends further examination of these issues by Police
A full copy of the report can be found here.
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