A report published today by Lord Bradley has recommended key reforms to the Criminal Justice System to ensure that offenders with a mental illness can be more readily diverted into a health and social care setting.
Examining the treatment of offenders in Wales and England Lord Bradley recommends:
• Access to liaison and diversion services for all police custody suites and courts
• Improved screening and identification of people with mental illness at police custody suites and at reception into prison
• The use of community sentences as safe and positive opportunities for offenders with mental illness
• Mental health training for all probation staff and judiciary
• The refocusing of in-reach mental health teams on providing services for those with serious mental illness
• A new minimum target for the NHS of 14 days to transfer a prisoner with acute, severe mental illness to an appropriate healthcare setting
• The creation of new Criminal Justice Mental Health Teams to support the police and courts to divert people with serious mental illness.
The Report also calls for the establishment of a new national body bringing together the Department of Health, the Home Office and other agencies to effect the proposed changes.
Responding to the report Hafal’s Criminal Justice Lead Officer Penny Cram said: “Lord Bradley’s report is to be welcomed for providing practical recommendations to deal with the many issues facing people with mental illness in the Criminal Justice System.
“Many of our clients know from experience that prison is the least appropriate setting for someone with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, yet our own research shows that a considerable number of offenders have a serious mental illness and are inappropriately held in custody.
“Although Lord Bradley points out in his report that as we have devolved arrangements for health services he will not formally report his findings to Wales, we trust that the Report will instigate much needed changes in the Criminal Justice System in this country.
“For this change to happen, the necessary resources must be provided. One of the main concerns of our clients is that although Lord Bradley’s report makes some excellent recommendations, these will be fruitless unless they are backed up with the proper resources and funding.
“In addition to the Bradley Report, that Assembly Government is due to publish a review of secure mental health services which will also have implications for the treatment of offenders with a mental illness in Wales.
“Bradley recommends that those with acute mental illness are transferred to secure mental health services within 14 days, yet for this to work there needs to be a sufficient number of places available in the first place. Furthermore, the treatment those offenders receive must be as therapeutic as possible. In a recent survey conducted by Hafal, clients told us that there is an absence of therapeutic input and activity in secure units and this undoubtedly compromises recovery.
“Furthermore, our clients have also found that following treatment in secure units they have frequently felt ‘dumped’ back into the community without appropriate support. We believe this is partly what leads to the ‘revolving door’ of mental illness and crime. We need better ‘step-down’ services and more low secure places so that offenders can be supported to make the transition back to the community.
“We look forward to the Assembly Government’s findings on secure mental health services and will continue to campaign for positive changes to the treatment of offenders with a mental illness in light of these two reports.”
To download Lord Bradley’s report please visit: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_098694