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Med Sci Law. 2009 Jul;49(3):170-8.

Challenges at the interface of working between mental health services and the criminal justice system.

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  • 1School of Health and Social Care, University of Bournemouth, Dorset, UK.


Provision of mental health reports for defendants in contact with the criminal justice system is problematic. This paper explores factors that facilitate the flow of information on a defendant between the courts and the mental health services. It identifies key challenges to this information transfer from a court worker's perspective. It also explores potential mismatches in the expectations held by the criminal justice system and the mental health services of the timeframes in which reports should be delivered and examines the perceived usefulness of reports. In Part 1, questionnaires were distributed to a population of 2107 court workers. In Part 2, monitoring forms were completed by court and health professionals on each report request made over a seven month period. Three key challenges to information transfer were identified: delays in report production, perceived inadequacies in the report content and report funding. Perceived timelines within which respondents believed reports should be delivered varied and there is a mismatch between the expectations of the two services. Perceptions on the usefulness of court reports also varied. Poor inter-agency communications are caused by lack of a clear, shared protocol outlining agreed timelines, report content and lines of responsibility relating to resource provision. Clear service level agreements are required between services to achieve clarity.

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