THE number of suicides following police custody in North Yorkshire is the second highest rate in England and Wales, figures have revealed.

A report released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission showed the North Yorkshire Police force area - which has the lowest crime rate in the country - came second only to the Metropolitan Police for the number of apparent suicides after being held by police.

Five people in the county took their own lives over 2012/13, compared to eight in London. There were no recorded suicides in the Cleveland or Durham police force areas.

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Head of the force, Chief Constable Dave Jones said he shared the concerns raised nationally about deaths of people with mental health issues who come into contact with the police and was ensuring measures were put in place to prevent more such deaths in the county.

He said: “The IPCC report highlights serious concerns nationally about the death of people with mental health issues who come into contact with the police.

"I share this concern and want to ensure that places of safety are put in place in North Yorkshire so professional medical support and aftercare is available for people who are detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.”

He said the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group had a recently announced it was investing £400,000 in a facility at Bootham Park Psychiatric Hospital in York and there were further plans to create another facility at Scarborough. They will allow people detained under the mental health act to get specialist help.

The force is also to pilot a Street Triage Scheme, whereby mental health nurses are sent to incidents where police believe immediate mental health support is needed.

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: "It is really important we learn lessons from each of these cases.

“North Yorkshire has been blighted by the unique lack of Section 136 provision, but I welcome the developments in recent months that could see two Section 136 places of safety open in North Yorkshire in the near future.”

The charity, Inquest, which provides support to families following contentious deaths, particularly deaths in custody said: “There needs to be more research into community health provision and strategies to make sure people don’t end up in police custody that shouldn’t be there.”