Sainsbury Centre: Too few offenders get mental health orders

Less than 1% of offenders in the community are being referred for mental health treatment despite high levels of need, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has warned.

The charity cited figures published last week by the government which showed 918 mental health treatment requirements were issued with community or suspended sentences in England last year.

Though this marks an increase on the 2007 figure of 848, the Sainsbury Centre said it represented less than 1% of offenders sentenced to community terms, despite high levels of need for mental health care.

Under MHTRs, which were introduced in 2005, an offender can be made to undergo mental health treatment for a specific period of time.

The figures also showed wide regional variations in the number of MHTRs issued, with 281 given out in London and just 33 in the North East.

Junior justice minister Lord Bach issued the figures in response to a parliamentary question by Lord Bradley, who published a government-commissioned report into the experiences of offenders with mental health problems or learning disabilities in April 2009.

It called for more research and government guidance on the use of MHTRs.

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