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Question

18. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice and Equality his views on whether there is an over-reliance on An Garda Síochána with regard to incidents surrounding mental health; if he is satisfied that members of An Garda Síochána are receiving adequate and up-to-date training in the area of mental health; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42439/18]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I am informed by the Garda Commissioner that An Garda Síochána has in place an interagency response to assist people with mental health issues and there is a Memorandum of Understanding between the Health Service Executive (HSE) and An Garda Síochána which sets out procedure for Gardaí in dealing with mental health incidents.
The purpose of this Memorandum is to maximise interagency co-operation and to promote the welfare and safety of persons with mental ill health. In addition, members of An Garda Síochána can also make use of the on-call doctor service when dealing with such incidents.
Furthermore, section 12 of the Mental Health Act 2001, which provides for Garda powers to take into custody persons believed to be suffering from a mental disorder, may be invoked by the Gardaí where they come into contact with a mentally ill person in a crisis situation. In such situations, it may appear that the person is a danger to himself/herself or to others. Section 12 may be invoked to ensure that a medical assessment and admission to an approved centre and treatment in accordance with that Act are accessed.
I am further informed by the Commissioner that during Phase 1 of their training in the Garda College new recruits learn about the various types of mental illness and Garda powers and procedures for dealing with a vulnerable person suffering from a mental illness. They also receives training in how to intervene when there is an immediate risk of suicide. The vulnerability of suspects, witnesses and injured parties is also embedded in all training courses for Investigative Interviewing
As the Deputy will be aware, the Commission on the Future of Policing considered the issue of An Garda Síochána dealing with incidents concerning mental health. The Commission's Report redefined policing as a multi-disciplinary, cross agency effort built on the foundation of protecting human rights. Of particular note is its emphasis on understanding policing as including not only the prevention and detection of crime, but also the prevention of harm and protection of vulnerable people, and the implications of this for the whole of Government
The report recommends that the prevention of harm including providing support to people with a mental health condition should be explicitly identified as a core objective of policing. My officials have commenced a consultation process with other Government Departments and with the various agencies with a remit in this area and I intend to seek the Government’s approval for a High-level Implementation Plan before the end of this session.