The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has made a series of recommendations to Sussex Police regarding restraint of children and adults in police custody particularly focussing on those suffering from mental illness or other vulnerability.
The recommendations follow a detailed investigation into the treatment of an 11 year old girl (referred to as Child H) on five occasions between 2nd February and 2nd March 2012. Child H suffers from a neurological disability which can cause challenging behaviour and poses a potential risk of harm to herself and others.
Child H was arrested three times for minor offences and on one occasion was detained under the Mental Health Act. She spent a total of 60 hours in police custody. On two occasions she was held overnight. At the time of the incidents there was no formal diagnosis of her disability but officers had been informed by Mrs H, the child’s mother, that she was suspected to be suffering from autism.
Through their investigation, the IPCC found that there had been numerous failures by Sussex Police:
- There was a failure to ensure an appropriate adult (a parent, guardian, or social worker) present to support Child H whilst she was in custody.
- Handcuffs, leg restraints, and spit hoods were used to restrain Child H however no record of justification for use of force was made.
The IPCC investigation found that the failings had arisen, in part, from the training and force policy utilised by Sussex Police. As such the following recommendations were made:
- Improved training on the use of force on children and adults with mental illness, to ensure the use of force is avoided wherever possible;
- Additional training on detaining vulnerable people and the role of an AA; and
- Ensuring officers are accountable for their use of force.
The full recommendations made to Sussex Police can be found here: ipcc.gov.uk
After the IPCC investigation had commenced, Sussex Police also worked with Child H’s family to ensure lessons were learned and to establish appropriate protocols to aid any future dealings with her. Management action was taken against them. Disciplinary action was also taken against a custody sergant who failed to ensure that Child H was dealt with quickly, as well as two police constables who had restrained Child H.
The IPCC also considered that there was a case to answer for misconduct for six custody sergeants for the failure to ensure an appropriate adult was present along with other failings.
Child H’s mother described the ordeal as ‘nothing short of a nightmare’ for both herself and her daughter.
The IPCC recommendations in relation to the case of Child H, comes just months after new guidance was issued to all NHS services following the Inquest of Kingsley Burrell in which excessive force and restraint was found to have contributed to his death. Read more about that case here: southernslaw.co.uk.
If you, or a loved one, have been affected by any of the issues touched upon here, please contact our specialist team today. Bringing a case against any public authority can be a daunting prospect, here at Southerns our experienced team is on hand to ensure you receive support and advice throughout.