What can Saps do if they think a criminal suspect is mentally unstable?

What is the protocol if a police officer encounters a suspect that may be mentally unstable?

The South African Police Service (Saps) says the police are not in a position to certify people as mentally unstable.

Saps spokesperson Capt FC van Wyk says officers can, however, forcibly take the person to a state hospital for assessment if they appear to be a threat to themselves or to others.

If a mentally unstable person is arrested on a criminal charge, van Wyk says the magistrate makes a determination on referral options.

The Muizenberg police in Cape Town are investigating a case of assault after a woman was attacked on St James main road last week.

Read: Bystander effect as woman attacked in broad daylight in Muizenberg

The attacker in the incident, who is suspected to be mentally unstable, was released by police after he was brought in.

However, non-profit organisation Cape Mental Health says the man should have been taken to a medical facility instead of being released.

The organisation's Waseema Fisher explains that a mental health professional is meant to make an assessment after an individual is kept for a 72 hour observation period.

If a police officer deemed that person to be a risk, they should take the person to a medical facility. The mental health professional will make an assessment after a 72 hour observation period.

Waseema Fisher, Access to justice manager - Cape Mental Health

The police should rather take the person to a facility rather than just release the person.

Waseema Fisher, Access to justice manager - Cape Mental Health

It's in the best interest of the person to be referred to a hospital where they can get the necessary interventions.

Waseema Fisher, Access to justice manager - Cape Mental Health

Listen to the discussion on The Pippa Hudson Show:


This article first appeared on CapeTalk : What can Saps do if they think a criminal suspect is mentally unstable?


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