The Ministry of Justice’s plans to reform the criminal justice system must ensure that people with mental health problems or a learning disability are identified, Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, has said.
The Ministry of Justice’s White Paper, <em>Swift and Sure Justice</em>, outlines plans to reform the criminal justice system, including speeding up court cases, improving transparency so the public can understand how the system works, and engaging local communities in dealing with low-level offending.
However, these reforms should be implemented with care to ensure that the needs of people with mental health problems or a learning disability are considered from the outset, and should ensure people with a mental health problem or properly identified, and where necessary, diverted, Duggan said.
“Children and young adults who end up in custody are three times more likely to have mental health problems than those who do not,” he added.
“Diverting them towards effective treatment or support at the earliest stage of their contact with the criminal justice system will help them to get the support they need to move away from offending behaviour. It can also help to prevent bigger problems from developing if people are diverted when they commit relatively minor offences.
“If courts are sentencing longer into the evenings and at weekends, liaison and diversion services must be on hand to identify both adults and children with mental health needs and to ensure they get the support they need to turn their lives around.”