Police mental health champion wins social justice commendation
Posted Friday 22 January 2010
A policeman who has revolutionised relations between people with mental health problems, the police force and their wider community has been awarded a prestigious commendation for his contributions to social justice. PC Richard Harwin, from Hackney Metropolitan Police, received recognition at Wednesday night’s Una Padel Award for his innovative liaison work with his local Mind charity, City and Hackney Mind.
PC Harwin was appointed Mental Health Intervention Officer in 2008 and has worked tirelessly to improve the way the police work with victims with mental health problems. People with mental distress experience high levels of harassment and victimisation in their communities, with figures showing that 71% of people had been harassed or attacked over a two year period (1). However, they are less likely to report crimes to police for fear they won’t be believed or that police won’t act on their case (2), and there have been significant barriers in bringing the crimes committed against them to justice. PC Harwin’s work aimed to transform the relationship between victims with mental health problems and the police, so that victims felt able to report crimes, police could better understand and support them, and individuals could live in their communities without fear.
A former psychiatric nurse, PC Harwin has drawn on his experiences to deliver training and awareness programmes to his Force, forge ties between the police and local mental health services and has set up drop-in and workshop sessions for service users at City and Hackney Mind to provide a safe space for people to discuss crime in the community. His face-to-face work at Mind has helped to rebuild trust between the police and vulnerable victims, ensuring that people with experience of mental distress have equal access to justice, whether they are a victim or a witness to crime.
Richard Harwin said:
It is an honour to be commended by the Una Padel Award, and I am grateful to Mind for nominating me. I’d also like to thank them for working with me more generally too, it so rewarding to be involved with campaigns like Another Assault and projects such as City and Hackney Mind’s drop-in sessions. My background as a psychiatric nurse means I came into the Metropolitan Police with a keen interest in mental health and had seen how people with mental health problems can struggle to report crimes. As a result I’ve always wanted to do everything I can to improve communications between the police, service users and the wider community and am pleased to have been given the opportunity to improve understanding of mental health issues within the force and beyond.
Anna Bird, Policy and Campaigns manager at Mind said:
It has been such a pleasure working with Richard as he has such a genuine passion for mental health issues. He’s leading the field in improving police links with mental health services and service users and his input into Mind’s work on both a local and national level has been invaluable, contributions which have made a real difference to the lives of people with experience of mental distress. Mind is working with Richard and others like him to ensure that their good practice is shared across the country, to improve police confidence amongst victims and witnesses with mental health problems.
The Una Padel Awards are run by The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and recognise contributions to the field of criminal and social justice, in line with the values of Una Padel who was Director of the Centre until 2006.
(1) Another Assault, Mind (2007).
(2) 36% of people who did not report an incident to the authorities said that this was because they did not think they would be believed. Another Assault, Mind (2007).