1) That HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said that 'prison has become, to far too large an extent, the default setting for those with a wide range of mental and emotional disorders.' (HM Inspectorate of Prisons (2007))
2) 25% of women and 15% of men in prison reported symptoms indicative of psychosis. (Ministry of Justice (2013)) whereas the figure for the population as a whole is 4%.
3) 62% of male and 57% of female sentenced prisoners have a personality disorder. (Ministry of Justice (2013))
4) 46% of women prisoners and 21% of male prisoners have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. The figure for the population as a whole is 6% (Ministry of Justice (2013)).
5) That the Sentencing Council, who provide guideline sentences on all criminal offences which courts are obliged in the normal course of events to follow, does not include any member who has a specialism in dealing with mental health.
6) Lord Bradley's Review of People with Mental Health Problems or Learning Disabilities in the Criminal Justice System (2009) concluded that whilst the policy of 'diversion' for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities has been supported by successive Governments since as far back as 1990 the lack of a nationally guided approach has meant that implementation has been inconsistent.
7) Lord Bradley's Review also raised serious concerns about the quality of screening of people with mental health issues at the police station and subsequently at court.
Conference welcomes the commitment of the Liberal Democrats to ensure that mental health problems are treated as seriously as physical health problems, and that people who suffer from mental health problems are neither stigmatised nor ignored. Conference further welcomes the £400 million that the Liberal Democrats in government have secured for talking therapies. Conference especially welcomes the announcement from Norman Lamb MP, Minister of State at the Department of Health, that mental health professionals will be based in a number of police station custody suites as a trial project. Conference believes that this is a significant first step in the right direction.
Conference is concerned that the criminal justice system has for too long been used as a dumping ground for people with mental health problems, and that sufferers still find themselves being prosecuted rather than treated on a regular basis. Conference believes that the criminal justice system remains ill-equipped and an inappropriate method to deal effectively with people suffering from mental health problems, and that sufferers are penalised as a result.
Conference calls on the Government to:
A) Expand the current pilot project of mental health professionals in police station custody areas to ensure that all custody areas benefit from this as soon as possible, and to ensure that the funding to provide this service is protected.
B) Direct the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue guidelines to prosecutors ensuring that mental health issues are properly considered when deciding whether or not a prosecution is in the public interest, and to establish a default position that diversion into treatment should be preferred to prosecution unless there are compelling reasons otherwise;
C) Direct the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure that all prosecutors and prosecuting counsel receive training on mental health issues as part of the regular training that they receive;
D) Ensure that the Sentencing Council includes at least one specialist in mental health issues at all times;
E) Ensure that all Judges and Magistrates are trained about mental health issues as part of the regular training that they receive;
F) Ensure that options for diverting people into treatment rather than prosecution where they are suffering from mental health problems are properly funded; and
G) Ensure that mental health services within the criminal justice system are properly funded.'