Entitlements and experiences of victims of mentally disordered offenders
Author | Victims commissioner
The law makes a distinction between offenders sound of mind and those whose judgement is impaired by mental illness. Governments findings in the April 2018 review of parole processes and victim contact scheme resulting in statements that victims whose offenders are serving prison sentences are to become more involved, yet this does not extend to those within forensic mental health settings leaving victims to feel unsupported and as though the system has little regard for their needs. To examine how victims of mentally disordered offenders are dealt with, 9 case studies of homicide victims whose perpetrator was a mentally disordered offender were considered. It was found that victims of unrestricted mentally disordered offenders were dealt directly with clinical teams and were not provided a victim liaison officer leading the victim to chase information themselves leading the victims to feel re-traumatized, frustrated and distressed alongside struggling to establish contact with those required when seeking out information. Furthermore, victims of mentally disordered offenders had no right to submit a victim personal statement or attend a tribunal, victims of mentally disordered offenders are no less affected then victims of offenders who receive custodial sentences although, the inability to submit a statement means they are not given a voice to provide context to decisions made for the offender which otherwise provides therapeutic value. There is no reference to victims in mental health tribunals, they are not informed about decisions or explanations of decisions leading again to frustration and distress. Helping victims to understand processes and decisions regarding their offender would make decisions more comprehensible, reducing shock in instances where offenders are discharged early. In addition, some victim liaison officers who have never been responsible for mentally disordered offenders may struggle to provide the correct information and advice, this makes a case for victim liaison officers who specialise in supporting victims of mentally disordered offenders to provide them with adequate support. It is evident victims feel as though their needs are not catered for, it is necessary victims receive the same level of support, treatment and entitlements in order to help them cope and recover.