Intended for healthcare professionals


Mental health services are failing the criminal justice system

BMJ 2022; 376 doi: (Published 26 January 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;376:e069776
  1. Charlie Brooker, honorary professor1,
  2. Jeremy Coid, emeritus professor of forensic psychiatry2
  1. 1Department of Sociology and Law, Royal Holloway and New Bedford College, London, UK
  2. 2Wolfson Institute of Population Health, Queen Mary University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: C Brooker charlie.brooker{at}

A national review is urgently needed to reverse the decline

The recent joint report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of Constabulary, Prisons, and Probation highlights that the criminal justice system is seriously failed by mental health services in England and Wales.1 The report finds poor information exchange at every stage of the criminal justice pathway: mental health services are reluctant to share information on grounds of confidentiality despite it being legal; shortfalls exist in staff training, support, and advice to criminal justice staff; and insufficient attention is paid to mental health in court reports, or no reports are provided. However, the biggest problem by far is access to high quality mental healthcare and treatment, which has worsened since the start of the covid-19 pandemic.

Mental health services have been undermined by years of underfunding because of austerity, no parity of esteem with services for physical illness, and internal ideological battles over the need for inpatient beds2 and whether patients should be subject to “restrictive or …

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