Tue, 24 Jun 2014

Further supplementary evidence to the Home Affairs Committee (Taser use forms)

I have two ongoing complaints with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) about how the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are both responding to some of my Freedom of Information requests. There's little visibility as to when further disclosures, prompted by the ICO's caseworkers, are made by SLaM and the MPS. Soon after SLaM sent me an over-redacted 105-page report into incidents at the River House mental health secure unit, I received four Taser use forms from the Metropolitan Police Service. (Both complaints are ongoing as the SLaM report is clearly over-redacted and the MPS have not yet addressed the non-location of its incident management log.)

These new disclosures are directly related to the second section (paragraphs 15 to 23) of my Evidence to the Home Affairs Committee's inquiry into policing and mental health submitted last month and are relevant to this inquiry. I sent to the Home Affairs Committee a supplementary evidence about SLaM's disclosure of its 105-page report earlier this month, and copied below is a further supplementary evidence (also published on the Parliament's website as PMH0044) about the MPS eventual disclosure of the four Taser use forms:

  1. This second supplementary submission provides further information about the use of Tasers by and tactics of the the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) when they were deployed on the night of 2012-10-01 at the River House mental secure unit, part of the Bethlem Royal Hospital run by the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trust.
  2. As mentioned in paragraphs 17 of my evidence1 I have an ongoing complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office about the cover up of the MPS concerning incidents at the River House mental secure unit. As part of their response to this complaint, the MPS have disclosed four Taser use forms2. The further information contained in these forms should be directly relevant to this inquiry.
  3. The forms confirm that four Tasers were ‘Drawn’ and reveal that 12 ‘TASER officers [were] present’.
  4. The text of the four forms is very close but with some differences. So much wording is identical that it is obvious the four officers conferred before filling in these forms, which may well be the standard procedure. However, some differences are significant.
  5. It appears that part of the intelligence that informed police decisions was faulty. One form’s ‘Information/Intelligence’ box includes: ‘Reports were also received that someone had been stabbed to death within the unit and that a further person had also been stabbed.’ while the three others state: ‘Reports were also received that someone had been stabbed within the unit’. Nowhere in the fully unredacted summary report3 is there any mention of a stabbing and the extensively redacted full report4 only includes one mention on p. 25: ‘One report by xxxx refers to “support to stabbing incident”. This is probably based on one of several hoax calls made by xxxxxxx.’ The police based its decision on how to intervene in a mental health ward in part on intelligence which was a hoax (not even considered worthy of mention in the summary independent investigation report), with one officer believing there had been two stabbings resulting in one death and three other officers believing there had been one stabbing and no consequent death, when there had been no stabbing at all.
  6. While the tactical options considered included ‘Negotiators’, ‘Prison training tactics’, ‘Taser’ and ‘Entry to save life and limb’, the one adopted was ‘Officers used prison training tactics and cleared the unit with the use of taser. Each of the bedrooms/rooms were cleared and all patients were eventually contained in the lounge area. The staff were removed from the secure room they were in and the aggressive ring leaders [also described as ‘main trouble makers’ in other forms] were removed from the group of patients into a separate secure location.’ The forms do not mention any consideration to the potential additional trauma to the vulnerable patients treated on this mental health ward when faced with ‘prison training tactics’ imposed by TSG officers, twelve of them equipped with Tasers and four of them having their Tasers drawn.
  7. At a meeting of Lambeth's Health and Adult Services Scrutiny Sub-Committee5, representatives from SLaM stated ‘The police had been called for support but the incident had been managed well by staff at SLaM and the police did not get involved in the incident’. The investigation report already contradicted this statement, but now we learn that SLaM was attempting to cover up ‘prison training tactics’ used by the police.
  8. In light of these Taser forms, it would be useful for this inquiry to look into what intelligence the police use when deployed to mental health settings, how they check this intelligence with medical staff, the suitability of the tactics considered and used, and whether there should be support for patients following a police deployment.
  9. Further to the recommendation in paragraph 22 of my original evidence to publicly publish a minimum amount of information to ensure some transparency about police deployment to mental health units, police forces should publish monthly figures of the use of Tasers (and other weapons) that also include:
    • (a) how many weapons were brought to mental health settings,
    • (b) how many and which type of weapons were used (and as already suggested, which type of use) in mental health settings, and specifically on mental health wards,
    • (c) overall number, age, ethnicity and whether patient/staff/other of those police tactics are used against.

[1] PMH0021 David Mery - written evidence (PDF): http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/home-affairs-committee/policing-and-mental-health/written/9174.pdf

[2] MPS disclosure of the four Taser use forms: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/river_house_2012_10_01_critical#incoming-530359
Direct links to the four forms: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/193137/response/530359/attach/3/Redacted%20Taser%20Use%20MPS%2002.10.12%20287.12.doc.tif.pdf, https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/193137/response/530359/attach/4/Redacted%20Taser%20Use%20MPS%2002.10.12%20291.12.doc.tif.pdf, https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/193137/response/530359/attach/5/Redacted%20Taser%20Use%20MPS%2002.10.12%20292.12.doc.tif.pdf and https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/193137/response/530359/attach/6/Redacted%20Taser%20Use%20MPS%2002.10.12%20294.12.doc.tif.pdf

[3] An independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding two separate but related incidents involving Norbury patients on Spring Ward on the night of 1st October 2012 (Final Report - Summary): https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/164330/response/496004/attach/3/RH%20Report%20Oct12%20unredacted.pdf

[4] An independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding two separate but related incidents involving Norbury patients on Spring Ward on the night of 1st October 2012 (Final Report): http://www.slam.nhs.uk/media/255726/slam_rh_incident_underlying_detail_redacted_140528.pdf

[5] Minutes of meeting of Lambeth's Health and Adult Services Scrutiny Sub-Committee (Item 5), 2012-10-23: http://moderngov.lambeth.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=20256

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