The Criminalisation of Mental Distress : An Exploration of Section 136 Processes

Erlam, Jayne and Fledderjohann, Jasmine and Humphreys, Leslie (2022) The Criminalisation of Mental Distress : An Exploration of Section 136 Processes. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

[thumbnail of 2022ErlamPhD.pdf]
Text (2022ErlamPhD.pdf)
2022ErlamPhD.pdf.pdf - Published Version

Download (2MB)


In England and Wales, the increase in adult Section 136 (S136) police detentions under the Mental Health Act is well established; however, there are equally concerning rises in detentions of children and young people (CYP): 753 detentions in the year ending March 2014 (Home Affairs Committee, 2015), rising to 1,561 detentions in the year to March 2020 (Home Office, 2020a). This rise in police interaction with people who experience mental distress (MD) in public spaces suggests a failure in health and social care support provision, places greater demands upon police resources and raises concerns about the impact that police involvement has on people who are experiencing MD. This thesis explores whether the current reliance on police to assist in situations of acute MD is criminalising. This mixed-methods research analyses primary and secondary data pertaining to S136 detentions of adults and CYP. It hears the perspective of front-line police officers (n=12) and adults with experience of S136 detentions (n=5) and analyses an NHS administrative dataset (n=4,211) containing all S136 detentions over a 40-month period (December 2017 to April 2021) in one county in the North of England. I found that police officers play a significant role in the care of persons experiencing an episode of MD and that this is perceived and experienced as criminalising. The lack of available inpatient beds is key: correlation is found between discharge after a bed request fails to result in admission and repeated detention, and that S136 suites being rendered inaccessible due to detainees awaiting admission results in an overuse of Accident and Emergency departments, where detained persons are supervised and controlled by police officers. There is no parity of service provision for CYP. Proportionally, CYP have less access to S136 suites, experience more repeated detentions and spend longer under police supervision and control than adults do.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
?? s136; mental distress; mental health act; criminalisation; place of safety; policing ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
03 Oct 2022 15:00
Last Modified:
21 Apr 2024 23:21