Liaison and diversion services in South East London: Referral patterns over a 25-year period

Medico-Legal Journal, Ahead of Print.
Criminal justice liaison and diversion services identify people with mental health needs and ensure they receive appropriate support. We describe a 25-year period of one such service that deals with a population of 864,540 in South East London that was set up in 1991. We used data from three time periods. A diagnosis of a mental illness was recorded in 70.0–80.3% of court liaison and diversion referrals. The proportion receiving a hospital order declined from 15.4% in 1991/1992 to 1.1% in 2015/2016; 54/199 (27.1%) of referrals to the police liaison and diversion service were detained in hospital. Although the service is designed to support any individual with a mental health issue, these results suggest that it has dealt mainly with people who have severe mental illness. Further research is required to understand how best to benefit a wider range of people with mental health issues who attend the lower (Magistrates’) courts, and whether screening for mental disorders can be applied in liaison and diversion settings to aid the implementation of national policy. We also need to understand how disposal decisions are made, and which are most effective.

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