Mental Health and Crime

Mental Health and Crime

Mental Health and Crime

Mental Health and Crime


Does mental disorder cause crime? Does crime cause mental disorder? And if either of these could be proved to be true what consequences should stem for those who find themselves deemed mentally disordered offenders? Mental Health and Crimeexamines the nature of the relationship between mental disorder and crime. It concludes that the broad definition of what is an all too common human condition - mental disorder - and the widespread occurrence of an equally all too common human behaviour - that of offending - would make unlikely any definitive or easy answer to such questions.

For those who offend in the context of mental disorder, many aspects of the criminal justice process, and of the disposals that follow, are adapted to take account of a relationship between mental disorder and crime. But if the very relationship is questionable, is the way in which we deal with such offenders discriminatory? Or is it perhaps to their benefit to be thought of as less responsible for their offending than fully culpable offenders? The book thus explores not only the nature of the relationship, but also the human rights and legal issues arising. It also looks at some of the permutations in the therapeutic process that can ensue when those with mental health problems are treated in the context of their offending behaviour.


Analysing the links between mental disorder and crime must be one of the most daunting tasks confronting any scholar. It demands at least an adequate working knowledge of the substance and relations of very different and complex fields: criminology, law, sociology, politics, psychology and psychiatry; and it demands that those fields are properly mined, assessed, summarised and synthesised each time their arguments and methods are turned on diverse problems. Almost all the pivotal terms and definitions commonly in use have been or are actively contested, not only because they refer to such elusive and ambiguous phenomena, but also because they have very major consequences both for the administration of criminal justice and psychiatry, and for the lives of individual victims and offenders. Yet the problems they throw up require urgent, daily resolution. There are few who have the skills, learning and judgment to furnish answers, and it is no surprise that the field that has not been well-populated in the past.

A Professor of Law at the London School of Economics, Jill Peay is one of those very few. Her professional history includes a training in psychology at the University of Birmingham; reading for the Bar; employment as a research criminologist at the University of Oxford; and expertise as a sociolegal scholar. She has written copiously on mental health and crime, concentrating on issues raised by ideas of risk, dangerousness and compulsion; the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; the application of human rights legislation; the working of mental health tribunals and of inquiries after homicide; and law reform, and the reform of the 1983 Mental Health Act, in particular. Mental Health and Crime draws on all that extraordinary range, and it amounts to what almost no one else could have accomplished: a virtually encyclopedic review of a massive theme, written judiciously in clear and intelligible language, and with great flair and authority. It treads step by step and with confidence to elucidate a chain of seemingly intractable problems. It has no rivals, and must be read by practitioners, students and scholars in all the disciplines that bear on its theme.

David Downes and Paul Rock

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