Vulnerable offenders with mental health, alcohol and substance abuse problems are increasingly being diverted from short-term custodial sentences and towards treatment that aims to tackle the causes of their offending.
In the pilot areas – Birmingham, Plymouth, Sefton, Milton Keynes and Northampton – psychologists are working collaboratively with the existing panels of justice and health officials. Together, the professionals ensure that magistrates and judges have the information they need to determine whether an offender should be required to receive treatment for their mental health, alcohol or drug issues.
They help to ensure that Community Sentence Treatment Requirements (CTSRs) are issued to the right people. CSTRs are a joint initiative by the Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England to improve access to treatment programmes for offenders serving community sentences.
They require engagement with local health services under the terms of the sentence and failure to attend may represent a breach of that sentence.
Dr Karen Slade, policy lead for the division of forensic psychology at the British Psychological Society, said: “I am delighted to see psychologists taking part in these pilot schemes. They are a welcome addition to the existing court process.
“Treatment requirements are still not widely used as part of community sentences, yet a recent study for the Ministry of Justice found that offenders given mental health treatment as part of their sentence were significantly less likely to reoffend.”
A protocol setting out a new minimum standard of service and additional training has been provided for staff in the pilot areas to improve collaboration between the agencies involved. It has increased confidence among sentencers, resulting in more CSTRs being issued in those areas.
Initial figures suggest that, since the pilot sites went live late last year and early this, over 400 CSTRs have been issued.