HC Deb 15 July 1992 vol 211 cc777-8W
Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the role of duty psychiatric rota schemes for defendents with mental health problems; and when the relevant legislation is due to come into force;

(2) how many duty psychiatric rota scheme applications have been received by his Department to date; how many have been approved; how much of his Department's allocation is committed to diversion schemes in the current financial year; and how many courts will have the benefit of new schemes by 1 October;

(3) what sum he has allocated for expenditure on duty psychiatric rota schemes in magistrates courts in England and Wales after April;

(4) what efforts his Department has made to publicise the availability of moneys from duty psychiatric rota schemes to courts and others who may wish to apply for grants to finance such schemes.

Mr. Jack

Duty psychiatrist schemes are local initiatives which entail a psychiatrist attending a magistrates court, on call or on a regular sessional basis depending on demand, to examine defendants thought to have some mental disorder and to advise the court on a suitable outcome. Typically, this may involve discontinuing proceedings or diversion to the health or social services. In addition, such schemes help to reduce the need for lengthy remands in custody to await psychiatric assessment. Implementation of duty psychiatrist schemes is not dependent on new legislation.

A recent survey of magistrates courts and the probation service identified 19 schemes in operation. To facilitate the development of further schemes throughout England and Wales, funding of £4 million over a three-year period will be available. Of this, £500,000 has been allocated for expenditure in the current financial year.

We are currently discussing the arrangements for administering these payments with the Department of Health. As soon as these have been decided, we will publicly invite properly costed bids for a share of this funding.

This initiative is one of several in which the Home Office and the Department of Health are involved to promote the diversion of mentally disordered offenders from the criminal justice system.