Health screening in police custody

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  2. Dr Iain McKinnon
  3. Professor Donald Grubin
Author(s)McKinnon I, Grubin D
Publication type Article
JournalJournal of Forensic and Legal Medicine
ISSN (print)1752-928X
ISSN (electronic)1532-2009
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Background: There have been few previous studies on the health needs of police detainees. London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) uses health screening procedures which have not yet been evaluated. The objective of this study is to determine the extent of health problems and ‘mental vulnerability’ in detainees in police custody, and the efficacy of current health screening procedures. Methods: Custody records from five London Boroughs were reviewed. Prevalence data for health problems and mental vulnerability was obtained from the anonymised records of 307 detainees who were referred to the Forensic Medical Examiner (FME). Data were analysed for the identification of physical and psychiatric morbidity. Results: Injuries, epilepsy and asthma were the most common physical health problems noted. Drug and alcohol issues were also frequently encountered along with depression and self-harming behaviour and suicidal ideation. Morbidity was lower than that reported in other, interview based studies. Less than 2% of detainees were thought to require an Appropriate Adult to be present during police interview. Conclusions: A significant amount of health morbidity is present among detainees in police custody. Our findings suggest that current police screening procedures detect only a proportion of this. Further research is warranted to evaluate the effectiveness of health screening in police custody.
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