Challenges at the interface of working between mental health services and the criminal justice system

Med Sci Law 2009;49:170-178
doi:10.1258/rsmmsl.49.3.170
© 2009 British Academy of Forensic Science

 

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Challenges at the interface of working between mental health services and the criminal justice system

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Sarah Hean PhD 


School of Health and Social Care, University of Bournemouth


Jerry Warr PhD


School of Health and Social Care, University of Bournemouth


Sue Staddon BSc H


Health and Social Care in Criminal Justice (SW England); Department of Health

Correspondence: Dr Sarah Hean, Senior Lecturer (Research Methods), School of Health and Social Care (HSC), R114, Royal London House, Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 3LT, UK Email:shean{at}bournemouth.ac.uk

Provision of mental health reports for defendants in contactwith the criminal justice system is problematic. This paperexplores factors that facilitate the flow of information ona defendant between the courts and the mental health services.It identifies key challenges to this information transfer froma court worker’s perspective. It also explores potential mismatchesin the expectations held by the criminal justice system andthe mental health services of the timeframes in which reportsshould be delivered and examines the perceived usefulness ofreports.

In Part 1, questionnaires were distributed to a population of2,107 court workers. In Part 2, monitoring forms were completedby court and health professionals on each report request madeover a seven month period. Three key challenges to informationtransfer were identified: delays in report production, perceivedinadequacies in the report content and report funding. Perceivedtimelines within which respondents believed reports should bedelivered varied and there is a mismatch between the expectationsof the two services. Perceptions on the usefulness of courtreports also varied.

Poor inter-agency communications are caused by lack of a clear,shared protocol outlining agreed timelines, report content andlines of responsibility relating to resource provision. Clearservice level agreements are required between services to achieveclarity.

Challenges at the interface of working between mental health services and the criminal justice system
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Challenges at the interface of working between mental health services and the criminal justice system

Challenges at the interface of working between mental health services and the criminal justice system



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