DORSET'S police and crime commissioner (PCC) says there are 'no easy answers' after a vulnerable young woman who slashed her arms with a scalpel appeared before the courts.

The woman, who is not being named by the Daily Echo, has been prosecuted on a number of occasions for possessing a blade in a public place. Each time, the woman visited a quiet location at night to self-harm.

She is seeking psychiatric support for her mental health problems, and a judge sitting at Bournemouth Crown Court has adjourned a sentencing hearing for six months to allow her to get help.

PCC Martyn Underhill said the case highlights issues faced by frontline officers.

“While it is not appropriate or possible, as I do not have the details, for me to comment on this specific case, it does raise the challenges faced by police officers every day," he said.

“When responding to any incident, the primary consideration of officers has to be the safety of those involved. If there is concern that individuals present a danger to themselves or others, it is only right that police take the necessary steps to make the situation safe.

“While they are often the first to attend a scene or the first port of call for those in crisis, I have been vocal that police officers are not mental health professionals.

"The force works in close partnership with health, social care and third sector organisations to make referrals and ensure that those suffering with their mental health receive the necessary care and support.

“Where criminality has taken place, the police response should be appropriate, proportionate and never in isolation from the safeguarding measures that are required.

"Dorset Police officers receive regular mental health training inputs to ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of identifying need and signposting to the services available.

“This is built on by the increasingly close working relationships between officers and mental health professionals.

"Initiatives such as the Street Triage Scheme, which sees a trained mental health professional positioned to advise response officers, and embedded mental health staff within custody centres, have helped to bridge the gap in services and ultimately better support those in crisis.

“There is still some way to go, not least as demand increases and resources are stretched for all services.

"There is no easy answer, but the immediate safety of those in crisis will always be at the forefront of police action, with approved mental health services being the right and only organisations to provide long term care. In turn, this should minimise the risk for future harm, or contact with the police.”