Care or Custody? Mentally Disordered Offenders in the Criminal Justice System

Care or Custody? Mentally Disordered Offenders in the Criminal Justice System

Care or Custody? Mentally Disordered Offenders in the Criminal Justice System

Care or Custody? Mentally Disordered Offenders in the Criminal Justice System

Synopsis

In recent years there has been growing concern and controversy surrounding the care and treatment of mentally disordered offenders. Consequently, there have been a series of legislative and policy developments during the last decade, which have led to changes in attitude and the way that such offender-patients are treated. Such changes have focused primarily upon timely therapeutic intervention and diversion from the criminal justice system. Care or Custody?: Mentally Disordered Offenders in the Criminal Justice System considers these issues in depth. It is a comprehensive and scholarly text which identifies some of the practical difficulties that occur when mentally disordered offenders come into contact with the criminal justice system. The law in this area is complex and this book will enable professionals involved in the subject to gain a better understanding of the law and policy with regard to mentally disordered offenders. Judith Laing also analyses and addresses some of the theoretical issues and concerns surrounding the treatment and detention of mentally disordered offenders. The book will therefore assist and inform legal, mental health, and related practitioners working in this field, and will also provide a theoretical overview of the law for academics and students.

Excerpt

Culminating in the 1990s, the 1979-97 Conservative Government introduced a series of measures aimed at diverting mentally disordered offenders from various stages of the criminal justice system. These measures emphasized the need for mentally disordered offenders to receive treatment from the health and social services wherever possible, and in particular, provided that this should take place by virtue of inter-agency diversion schemes operating at courts and police stations across the country. This explicit diversion policy has been embraced by the new Labour Government, which has affirmed its continued support and commitment to such measures. This book examines the treatment of mentally disordered offenders in this context. It also includes an empirical study which evaluates how far a group of court diversion schemes operating in West Yorkshire enable this diversion and treatment to take place, thereby promoting inter-agency working, facilitating diversion, and providing lasting treatment and support.

The book considers how mentally disordered offenders are problematic as they fall between the realm of differing disciplines, principally the law and psychiatry; the main difficulty is whether the emphasis should be upon their mental illness and providing timely and appropriate care and treatment, or whether they should be treated primarily as offenders and be made subject to the normal operation of the criminal law. The book attempts to demonstrate that mentally disordered offenders need special care and treatment, access to the health and social services wherever possible, and that this has been a desirable goal for many decades, but that previous attempts have been thwarted due to the lack of adequate funding and facilities and the absence of inter-agency co-operation between the different agencies involved. The arguments in favour of this approach and some of the problems surrounding the treatment of mentally disordered offenders are outlined in Ch. 1. In particular, the evident difficulties in achieving inter-agency co-operation are discussed, and it is argued that in order to achieve diversion and appropriate disposals, increased co-operation and collaboration is central to the diversion process. It will be shown that diversion is an inherently offender-oriented process, its primary focus being his or her needs, and that there is therefore a danger that other principles within the criminal justice system, such as respect for public safety and the rights of victims, may be jeopardized in the diversion process. Chapter 1 also considers the implications of diversion for mentally disordered offenders in these respects and examines whether it can be made to fit into the overall mould of the criminal justice system.

The remainder of Part I of the book outlines the national dimension and considers the origins, introduction, and implementation of diversion policy on a . . .

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