Raising magistrates’ awareness of vulnerable adults: a pilot

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Raising magistrates’ awareness of vulnerable adults: a pilot

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More than 90% of prisoners have one or more mental health disorders, and it has been found that most prison systems are ill-equipped to provide appropriate mental healthcare. This article describes a pilot study that aimed to increase magistrates’ awareness of mental health and learning disabilities in court, the use of appropriate community sentences, mental health treatment requirements and community options for vulnerable defendants.

A team made up of staff from a vulnerable persons focus group and nurses from Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust liaison and diversion team presented awareness-raising sessions to magistrates and other court staff during lunch breaks at four courts in Northamptonshire. After the sessions, participants said they were better informed and more likely to use appropriate community sentences including mental health treatment requirements and community options. It is hoped that the sessions will help to reduce the number of vulnerable people being sent to prison in Northamptonshire and instead they will be given more appropriate sentences along with the treatment and support they may need.

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