More and more mental illness sufferers in jail

One of the culprits captured on CCTV producing a knife as he enters the premises.
One of the culprits captured on CCTV producing a knife as he enters the premises.

People with mental health issues are increasingly falling through gaps in the public services and ending up in the courts and jail, according to a new audit report.

‘Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System’ which was published by the Auditor General Kieran Donnelly this morning finds that the justice system is facing significant pressures due to growing mental health needs among the general population.

The report notes that the PSNI currently receives over 20,000 reports a year of incidents where individuals are experiencing mental health crises but a crime has not necessarily been committed.

Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of people arrested by police are identified, or had previously been identified, as having a mental health issue.

The PSNI, meanwhile, have found it difficult to implement effective arrangements to ensure effective assessment and provision of services for these vulnerable individuals. Thirty-six per cent of those entering prison custody report that they were in contact with community mental health services at the time of their committal.

An analysis by the Probation Board shows that 42 per cent of offenders have a mental health issue, and 72 per cent have an emotional well-being issue.

Mr. Donnelly said: “Justice organisations are increasingly working with individuals with mental health issues who have fallen between the gaps in wider public service.

“While the justice system is pursuing a range of reform measures to meet this challenge, the evidence to date suggests that more effective co-ordination is required between justice agencies and other key services, particularly health, education and housing services2

“That is why my report recommends stronger cross-departmental leadership, greater clarity and agreement between organisations on what the justice system can and hopes to achieve, and better recording of mental health issues and outcomes for individuals.”