Sansbury, Mr C.C.

24 Jul 2007 questionsarchive

A supplementary question put forward to the Hon. P. HOLLOWAY in relation to first-aid training for police officers.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Sir, I have a supplementary question. Does that long list that the minister read out include anything like mental health first-aid training for police officers?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: Obviously, training is a significant part of handling prisoners. The police cannot be expected to have the knowledge of mental health nurses—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting:

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: No, that’s right. However, I just indicated that, in fact, they are trained in relation to prisoner handling. Clearly, in relation to mental illness, it is difficult for police to be involved. If the honourable member reads the Coroner’s findings in this case, he will know that the police officer indicated that this person was considered at risk and appropriately so. The prisoner was taken to the Lyell McEwin hospital and, as I said, it was, unfortunately, at a particularly busy time for the hospital, and that is set out in the Coroner’s report.

However, in regard to the question, I come back to the point that the police are doing what they can to train and upgrade themselves in order to ensure that the opportunity is minimised for incidents of this type to happen again. Clearly, as well trained as we can make the police in the handling of prisoners, there are limitations in relation to people with mental illness.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a further supplementary question. Is the minister saying that police officers receive zero training in the areas of identification or management of mental health issues specifically?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY: I thought that I said the complete opposite. As I said, in this case, the police sergeant, or whoever it was who had responsibility, identified the person as being at risk. Obviously, in relation to diagnosis, police officers are not medical practitioners. I believe that, in this particular case, they took the appropriate action in taking that person to the hospital. An MOU is in place in relation to mental health issues, and I believe that police have adequate training for their responsibilities. As I indicated, regarding the new section being set up under the Assistant Commissioner training is one of the areas being looked at. You cannot expect police officers to be turned into medical practitioners with expertise in mental illness. Nonetheless, we can improve training, and that is exactly what is being done.