GMP speaks to Home Office about volumes of calls relating to mental health issues amid criticism from a coroner
Greater Manchester Police is seeking advice about an increased volume of emergency calls to and from people with mental health problems after the force was criticised over its response in the case of a woman who later killed her children.A coroner said the force’s “neglect” could have contributed to the deaths of a two-year-old boy and his four-month-old brother at the hands of their mother Jael Mullings in Cheetham Hill, Manchester. The remarks came in a narrative verdict, which said the children were unlawfully killed.The mother admitted the children’s manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in April 2009 and was detained in a secure hospital.
The force has said it is “puzzled” by the remarks after an Independent Police Complaints Commission probe found there had been no misconduct. But it added that it would be seeking advice from the Home Office.
During the incident, in November 2008, staff at a doctors’ surgery rang police expressing concern for Ms Mullings’ children. The call was graded Priority Two, which the IPCC said was appropriate because there appeared to be no “real or immediate threat to life”.
The call was delayed because of a lack of available patrols. Officers did not arrive at her home until after 2.45pm, 90 minutes after it came in. They received a report she was not in the house and tried to look for her.
They returned to the station at around 3.30pm for a shift changeover and there was no handover of information between divisional sergeants, the IPCC probe had noted.
Operators delayed sending officers back to the home because of a shortage of resources resulting from urgent jobs, until a report came through that Ms Mullings’ children had been found at the home not breathing at 5.42pm.
The coroner said that had the force graded the call Priority One immediately, they could have intercepted Millings before she left the property.
The IPCC blamed the lack of resources for the response delay, adding Priority Two was appropriate, given what the force knew at the time, and there was no misconduct.
However, the force said it was now seeking guidance from the Home Office to improve its handling of calls involving mental health issues.
ACC Dawn Copley of GMP said: “We are urgently talking to the Health Service and the Home Office about these additional responsibilities and how best to deal with and protect those who are vulnerable.”
A force spokeswoman said an increasing amount of officer time was taken up with being called to mental health institutions, waiting with patients for medical assessments and, in some cases, being asked to provide secure transport which is “outside existing arrangements”.
She said: “We have huge sympathy for NHS staff and the difficult job they do but we are concerned that we are being called in inappropriately and in situations where the presence of a uniformed police officer may not necessarily help the situation.”