English courts trial mental health referrals for vulnerable offenders

Psychologists helping judges opt for community sentences as alternative to prison

Offenders with mental health, alcohol and drug abuse problems are being referred to health services as part of community sentences in an effort to steer them away from jail time.

Under a pilot scheme in five areas in England, psychologists and panels comprising justice and health officials have been providing information to judges or magistrates to determine whether offenders should be required to receive treatment.

Engagement with health services is required under the terms of the sentence and failure to do so could represent a breach of that sentence.

The pilot has been running in Birmingham, Plymouth, Sefton, Milton Keynes and Northampton since the end of last year and around 400 community sentence treatment requirements (CTSRs) have been issued.

Once the results of the trial have been assessed, it is intended that the scheme will be rolled out across England.

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