friday, 10 august of 2018

Mental Health

English courts trial mental health referrals for vulnerable offenders

Offenders with mental health, alcohol and drug abuse problems are being referred to health services as part of community sentences in an effort to steer them away from jail time.

Under a pilot scheme in five areas in England, psychologists and panels comprising justice and health officials have been providing information to judges or magistrates to determine whether offenders should be required to receive treatment.

Engagement with health services is required under the terms of the sentence and failure to do so could represent a breach of that sentence.

The pilot has been running in Birmingham, Plymouth, Sefton, Milton Keynes and Northampton since the end of last year and around 400 community sentence treatment requirements (CTSRs) have been issued.

Once the results of the trial have been assessed, it is intended that the scheme will be rolled out across England.

Richard Clancy, the lead judge at the complex case court in Merseyside, part of the Sefton pilot, said: “To have a trial scheme where the court has on-site psychologists capable of testing suitability of a defendant for a mental health treatment requirement, so that such a community order can be made by the judge on the same day without need for adjournment, is a remarkable and innovative move which I fully support. This is an excellent joint venture, and I have seen first-hand how this allows us to nip in the bud one of the major causes of crime.”

The trial is being overseen by the Ministry of Justice in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England.

A study by the MoJ and Public Health England in 2017 found that among people undergoing drug or alcohol treatment who had committed an offence in the previous two years, there was a 33% reduction in the number of offences they committed in the subsequent two years. Among those engaging in alcohol treatment there was a 59% fall.

A more recent MoJ study found that when offenders were given mental health treatment requirements as part of their sentence, they were significantly less likely to reoffend.

The community orders will steer offenders away from short-term custodial sentences, which are known to be often ineffective at turning vulnerable offenders away from crime. Adults released from custodial sentences of less than 12 months have a proven reoffending rate of 64.9%.

The justice secretary, David Gauke, said: “We are all clear that we need to do more to support vulnerable offenders in the community. I want to improve confidence in community sentences, and early evidence from these [pilot] sites has shown that treatment requirements can have a significant impact in improving rehabilitation and addressing the underlying causes of offending.”


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(Published by The Guardian, August 10, 2018)

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