Mentally ill offenders eligible for diversion at local court in New South Wales (NSW), Australia: factors associated with initially successful diversion [2018]

Diversion away from the criminal justice system and into mental health treatment services is a key strategy for addressing the well-established burden of mental illness suffered by those presenting to court. While mental health courts, court liaison and court diversion services have been developed in many jurisdictions internationally, there is limited research evidence to support their effectiveness in identifying those with mental health need and achieving successful diversion. The Statewide Community and Court Liaison Service in New South Wales, Australia, identifies mentally ill offenders likely to meet legal eligibility criteria for diversion at the busiest local courts across the state. Utilising data collected by mental health clinicians working in the service, 8317 individuals were identified as being eligible for court diversion on at least one occasion during the study period (1 July 2008 and the 30 June 2015) and 57.3% were subsequently diverted by Magistrates. Successful diversion at this first step was associated with being female, older, of non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background, and having a serious mental illness, replicated when stratified by sex and by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background. There may be barriers to mental health diversion at court for individuals with particular socio-demographic characteristics which future service developments may need to take into account.

Yin-Lan Soon, Natasha Rae, Daria Korobanova, Calum Smith, Claire Gaskin, Carolynn Dixon, David Greenberg & Kimberlie Dean

The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 09 Aug 2018