A CHARITY has welcomed a government scheme to help people with mental health problems in the justice system in Dorset.

The Department of Health announced that it will establish ‘liaison and diversion’ teams in ten pilot areas, including Dorset, to bridge the gap between the police, magistrates and mental health and other services.

It aims to help the thousands of people who enter the justice system with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the UK each year.

National charity Rethink Mental Illness welcomed news of expansion of the initiative in Dorset to enable more effective decisions to be made in the justice system about where individuals should be referred, better identification of those who are vulnerable and prompt assessment of their mental health condition.

This information may be shared with police and the courts to help ensure decisions made about charging and sentencing take into consideration an individual’s mental health needs. It will also mean treatment is given sooner, in order to help stop re-offending.

Paul Jenkins, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “All too often, the way our criminal justice system deals with people with mental health problems leads to poor outcomes for individuals, frustration from police officers, magistrates and others. People are needlessly sent to prison through a failure to respond to some of the underlying issues in their lives. “We welcome this initiative which has the potential to stop people going unnecessarily to prison, reduce reoffending rates and save millions in taxpayer’s money.

“These liaison and diversion teams are definitely the best opportunity we’ve had to do things differently. Let’s make sure we make the most of it.”