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Our response to IPCC report following death of James Herbert

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has today released a report making national recommendations about the police service response to people in mental health crisis.

The Six Missed Chances report looks at how a different approach could have been taken prior to the death of 25-year-old James Herbert at Yeovil Police Station Custody Unit in June 2010.

In response to the report, Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson said: “We welcome the publication of the Six Missed Chances report and would firstly like to reiterate our heartfelt sympathies to the family of James Herbert, who’ve endured seven years of waiting for a conclusion to official proceedings.

“We were unable to hold misconduct proceedings until the conclusion of the investigations by the IPCC, a review by the Crown Prosecution Service, which concluded there would be no criminal proceedings, as well as the Coronial process.

“These misconduct proceedings are now at an end and one officer has been cleared of all allegations.

“All too often the police service has been the service of last resort for people in mental health crisis when all else fails and the events leading up to James’ tragic death is a clear example of this.

“This is why we have to work together with our partner agencies to improve the multi-agency response so that people in mental health crisis are given the support they need and deserve.

“The Six Missed Chances report is a call to action for the police service nationwide and I’d like to reassure our communities that we’ve made wide-reaching and fundamental changes covering all the recommendations made.

“The IPCC has recognised these changes in its report, specifically our “innovative cross-service approach” and introduction of a mental health tag in our control rooms to highlight incidents involving people in mental health crisis.”

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “My first thoughts are with the family of James Herbert who lost their son and then had to wait almost seven years for answers. This is far too long.

“It is clear there were missed opportunities in the way the police dealt with James on that day. I am reassured that there has been fundamental and wide-reaching changes in the way the police respond to people experiencing mental health crisis. The police service nationally has learnt a great deal over the past seven years from this and other cases, however each death is an individual tragedy.

“I will continue to play a leading role in the review of Section 136 detentions to help minimise the need for these detentions and ensure people are getting the help they need within the health and social care setting. This is a challenge for policing, but it is also a challenge for the other services that need to be properly resourced to provide support and alternatives to police custody.

“It is vital that lessons are learned and a similar tragedy is prevented from happening again. It is of course important for bereaved families, local people, and for the police themselves that deaths in custody are independently investigated however it is not acceptable that it should take this long and all those involved should reflect on the additional suffering the delay has caused the family and officers’ involved in this tragic case.

“The impact on the officers, their colleagues and their families throughout this time cannot be underestimated and what happened that day has undoubtedly severely affected them all.  These individuals were trying to do their best in difficult circumstances and should not have had to wait under such strain for such a length of time.”

Please read the feature on Transforming our response to mental health - which details the journey we’ve taken since 2010 to improve our response to those in mental health crisis.

Posted on Thursday 21st September 2017
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