Police officers need “MORE and better” mental health training, research says.
Inspector Michael Brown, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) mental health coordinator, testified Tuesday as an expert witness in the inquest into the death of 18-year-old Jade Hutchings of Haywards Heath.
It was discovered that Jade had attempted suicide by his mother on May 21, 2020, just hours after he was returned home by Sussex Police after being reported missing the previous day.
His mother Beatrice Hutchings had reported him missing on the evening of May 20 after saying he had got out and not returned.
Sussex Police classified him as “medium risk” due to his known drug and alcohol problems and past assaults.
However, details of Jade’s vulnerabilities were not shared with officials at the scene, so they were unaware when they found him in Hastings the next morning with a man he described as “a friend”.
Officers assessed whether Jade should be detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act but concluded that he posed no imminent danger to himself or others and did not pursue this further.
When asked about the officers’ assessment of him and having seen footage of the interaction worn on his body, Inspector Brown could not say with certainty whether he or other officers would have acted differently.
Jade was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, meaning many “safe places” that could have accepted him at a section would not accept him due to the “effect of intoxication on his presentation.”
Inspector Brown said he had expressed concern that Sussex Police Section 136’s guidelines were “very long” at almost 100 pages.
He said: “The powers of Section 136 are fairly simple, so 100 pages is a lot of material for a policy. There were also parts of the policy that I found a bit confusing.
“Mental health training has changed over the years — when I started I only got four hours of training on Section 136, which isn’t much at all.
“In 2016, following an intergovernmental law to improve crisis care, we created a two-day mental health course, a day on the Section 136 law and a day on mental health awareness.
“I think that’s as little as it takes to do justice to this complex and difficult area of the police force.
“Not many forces conduct the two-day training – some do, some don’t – and it’s up to the individual chief constable to decide.
“I’ve always believed that we need more and better mental health training for police officers.”
Michael Walsh, the solicitor representing the Hutchings family, said evidence presented by Sussex Police early in the inquiry showed that none of the officers who located Jade and brought him home had any training in the field mental health — and some were unaware of the force’s Section 136 politics.
Inspector Brown added: “Yes, what’s the point of having a force policy if officers are not aware of it?
“If officials were aware of Jade’s vulnerabilities, they might have made different decisions — but possibly the same ones.”
The investigation should be completed today.
https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/22800500.inquest-death-haywards-heath-teen-continues/?ref=rss The inquest into the death of Haywards Heath teenager continues