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A missed opportunity?: community sentences and the mental health treatment requirement

The Mental Health Treatment Requirement (MHTR) is one of 12 options (‘requirements’) available to sentencers when constructing a Community Order or a Suspended Sentence Order. The MHTR can be given to an offender with mental health problems who does not require immediate compulsory hospital admission under the Mental Health Act. If they give their consent, the MHTR requires them to receive mental health treatment for a specified period.

This report is based on an exploratory research project to examine the way in which the Mental Health Treatment Requirement is issued and the processes involved. It's secondary aims were: to explore the views of sentencers and identify the main problems that have prevented them from issuing the MHTR at the point of sentencing; to examine the Drug Rehabilitation Requirement for any lessons its operation may provide for improving the MHTR; to consider whether the MHTR is an effective, suitable and therapeutic form of diversion for offenders with mental health problems and to explore inter-agency working.

Fifty six professionals working in the courts, in probation and in health services were interviewed about their experiences and knowledge of the MHTR. Results found many professionals lacked direct experience of the MHTR, and some were not aware of it at all. Professionals also had varied views about the purpose of the MHTR and the criteria for who should receive an MHTR were not clear.

Husnara Khanom
Chiara Samele
Max Rutherford
Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health