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Evaluation of a liaison and diversion Court Mental Health Service for defendants with neurodevelopmental disorders

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Iain McKinnonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


Aim: Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) may present as neuropsychiatric problems as well as impairments of motor, cognitive, social and communication functioning. This study describes the introduction of a specialist service with expertise in NDD into an existing court mental health liaison and diversion service to determine if the service would impact on the health needs or disposal outcomes of defendants. Methods: We examined referrals of defendants with NDD disorders over 30-months at a London Magistrates’ Court. The pre-existing Court Mental Health (CMH) service was enhanced to provide additional expertise and hereafter referred to as the CMH + NDD Service. Baseline data including gender, ethnicity, remands and the rates of mental disorders was collected from the CMH Service using the existing minimum mental health service dataset. This was compared with data collected from the CMH + NDD Service. Results: We found the following rates of NDD 9.5 % (n = 43) for the CMH service, and 9.5 % (n = 79) for the CMH + NDD service. Although overall the rates were the same the number of defendants with a single NDD diagnosis was increased in the CMH + NDD service with ADHD 10 %, ASD and ID 4% higher, the rates of comorbid NDD decreased in the CMH + NDD service compared to baseline. Specific disorders such as depression were recorded at higher rates for NDD defendants in both phases, however, this did not reach significance. In contrast, schizophrenia and delusional disorders, alcohol and substance use were observed at much higher in the non-NDD defendants during both phases of the study. The rates of diagnosis of schizophrenia and delusional disorders increased for the NDD group within the CMH + NDD service. Following the first court appearance, there was a 10 % reduction in custodial remands for defendants with NDD who were seen by the CMH + NDD service (34.2 %, n = 25 in the CMH + NDD service vs 43.8 %, n = 14 in the CMH service). Conclusion: The study found it is possible to successfully integrate practitioners with expertise of NDD into existing liaison and diversion services. This service enhancement demonstrated modest evidence of service effectiveness, including an increase in the detection of comorbid mental illness and a reduction in custodial remands for defendants with NDD. Further work needs to be completed to examine how this model can be rolled out across multiple courts and in particular, a cost-benefit analysis is required to understand whether an approach involving a cluster of Courts, as opposed to a single site is the most effective approach for this group of defendants.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Chaplin E, McCarthy J, Marshall-Tate K, Ali S, Xenitidis K, Childs J, Harvey D, McKinnon I, Robinson L, Hardy S, Srivastava S, Allely C, Tolchard B, Forrester A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Research in Developmental Disabilities

Year: 2021

Volume: 119

Print publication date: 01/12/2021

Online publication date: 07/10/2021

Acceptance date: 29/09/2021

Date deposited: 01/11/2021

ISSN (print): 0891-4222

ISSN (electronic): 1873-3379

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.ridd.2021.104103


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