A CALL to stop the “scandal” of psychiatric patients being locked up in police cells has been backed by Dorset’s crime commissioner.

A Home Affairs Committee report has demanded a change in the law, which currently allows cells to be used as a ‘place of safety’ for mental health patients.

Its chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, said the detention of children with psychiatric problems in police cells needs to “cease immediately”.

This comes after it was revealed 236 youngsters, along with around 6,000 adults, across the country were caged at police stations last year due to a shortage of NHS beds.

Dorset police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said he agrees with Mr Vaz and praised the street triage system being trialled in the county, providing officers attending incidents with background information, advice, and, if needed, full assessment of those with mental health issues.

“Those suffering a mental health crisis need the right care, at the right time and in the right place,” he added.

“It is unacceptable that the police should be filling the gap because the NHS does not have the facilities to look after mentally ill people.

“In an ideal world, no adult or child with mental health issues should ever be detained in a police cell, unless they have broken the law. Experiencing a mental health crisis is not a crime.

“I would like to see the street triage scheme rolled out nationally. Here in Dorset, the scheme has reduced the number of times a custody suite is used as a place of safety for those suffering a mental health crisis.

“Nearly half the number of people detained under Section 136 in Dorset ended up in custody in 2014, compared with the previous year.

“We need to work together, to prevent anyone suffering a mental health crisis spending a night in a cell and not in a bed in a healthcare facility.”

This comes after agencies across Dorset signed the Mental Health Crisis Concordat in December, saying police stations should only be used as a place of safety “on an exceptional basis”.