More help needed for most vulnerable crime targets

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MENTAL health chiefs in Wigan say police need to do more to help crime victims with mental illnesses.

Recent studies have found that victims of crime saying that their reports to the police were often dismissed or disbelieved and that they are three times more likely to be victims of crime than the general population.

Following the report by academics and the charities Victim Support and Mind, the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have welcomed the findings and say people suffering from mental health issues need to be additionally supported.

Commander Christine Jones of the Association of Chief Police Officers said it had supported the research because senior officers recognised that the experiences of people with mental illnesses were not widely understood.

“Anyone reporting a crime against them expects to be listened to, taken seriously and treated with respect,” she said.

“Policing and mental health is high on the agenda for chief constables. We support the recommendations in this report, which will further that work.”

The research team interviewed a random sample of 361 people who have severe mental illness and the results were compared with official data in the Crime Survey for England and Wales. Further in-depth interviews were conducted with 81 people with mental health problems who had been victims of crime during the last three years.

A spokesman for the 5 Boroughs said: “We welcome Commander Christine Jones’ stance on the issue of policing and mental health. Being the victim of a crime is one of several serious life events which can be particularly damaging to people who have mental ill-health – causing them increased anxiety and trauma.

“When we plan patient care this can include looking what if any additional support a person may need if they have been the victim of a crime. For some people this may be our support to be able to report the crime to the police.”

The study said that almost half of people with some form of mental illness had experienced a crime in the last year.

It said people with severe mental illness were five times more likely to experience assault, while severely mentally ill women were 10 times more likely to be assaulted.

Six out of 10 women in this group reported being victims of sexual violence as adults, the study said.

But interviewees said that when they sought help, they often found they were treated unfairly by the police and other agencies. Victims said they found it difficult to convince police to take their reports seriously.

The study said that almost half of people with some form of mental illness had experienced a crime in the last year.

It said people with severe mental illness were five times more likely to experience assault, while severely mentally ill women were 10 times more likely to be assaulted.

Six out of 10 women in this group reported being victims of sexual violence as adults, the study said.

But interviewees said that when they sought help, they often found they were treated unfairly by the police and other agencies. Victims said they found it difficult to convince police to take their reports seriously.