The mental health needs of people with a learning disability detained in police custody

D. Scott, S. McGilloway, Michael Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Few research studies examine the prevalence or mental health needs of people with a Learning Disability (LD) detained in police custody. This paper describes the population of detainees with an LD who presented to an inner city inter-agency police liaison service during a three-year period. Two forensically trained Community Mental Health Nurses (CMHNs) screened all custody record forms (n=9014) for evidence of a mental health problem or LD. The CMHNs interviewed positively screened detainees (n=1089) using a battery of measures designed to assess mental health status, risk-related behaviour and alcohol or drug abuse. Almost one-in-ten of those interviewed (95/1089) were judged to have a possible or definite LD. Fifty-two per cent were cases on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) whilst 61% attained 'above threshold' Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) scores. The majority (63%) had a history of causing harm to others while 56 per cent had a history of self-harm. More than half (56%) regularly consumed harmful levels of alcohol while one-in-four (27%) reported abusing drugs. Higher than expected numbers of detainees have a learning disability and most have complex mental health needs. A police liaison service offers a way of identifying people with LD and connecting them with appropriate health and social care agencies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-114
Number of pages4
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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