The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has called for anyone facing an antisocial behaviour order to be screened for mental health problems and learning disabilities before any decisions are made on sanctions.
In a set of recommendations made to the Sentencing Advisory Panel’s consultation on Asbos the charity also called for those with mental health problems to be given special consideration when sentenced for breaching an Asbo. It argued that Asbos “often result in a fast-tracking of vulnerable individuals into the criminal justice system, and even to prison”.
The panel’s consultation is designed to shape formal sentencing guidelines given to magistrates and judges. Research by the Home Office, the British Institute for Brain Injured Children and probation union Napo has shown that a disproportionate number of people with mental health problems are being served with Asbos. At least half of all Asbos are breached and 6% of Asbos result in a prison sentence for that breach alone.
The Sainsbury Centre was also critical of the fact that alternative sanctions were not being explored as a first option, including referring people to community mental health teams, and said there should be better mental health awareness training for court staff.