Working With The Mentally Disordered Offender In The Community

By Phillip J Vaughan and Douglas Badger.

Chapman and Hall


ISBN 0 41256740 7

Any book about the problems faced by practitioners dealing with
mentally disordered offenders that offers a better understanding,
coupled with practical advise, is likely to be welcomed.
Unfortunately, this handbook has several flaws and is likely to be
of only limited benefit to practitioners.

The book attempts to cover a wide field of policy and practice
issues. In doing so the authors inevitably fall into the trap of
describing a web of issues so complex that many key practice issues
become submerged. Equally important are the authors’ attempts to
describe the relationship between mental disorder and offending
behaviour and then to link this with disadvantage. This is simply
misleading rather than being the distinctive approach they claim.
Notions of causality, punishment and liberty are clearly important
but the references here are too sketchy.

Part of the problem with the book is that it is clearly written
from an academic rather than a practitioner’s perspective. This may
account for some of the factual errors – such as the statement that
local authorities alone have a responsibility for providing
aftercare under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983. As
literature the book may be of some interest to students, although
the indexing makes it difficult to find where (or if) a particular
point is addressed. There are several case studies however these
are not used to explore the issues or dilemmas in any significant

Finally, too little reference is made to the importance of
inter-agency working that, by consensus, is the key factor in
dealing more effectively and appropriately with mentally disordered
offenders in the community. The different professional roles and
responsibilities are not described and practical advice about
working collaboratively and overcoming barriers between the
relevant health, social services and criminal justice agencies is
noticeably absent.

Graeme Sandell is head of mental health, National
Association for Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders.

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