In England, court-based mental health liaison and diversion (L&D) services work across courts and police stations to support those with severe mental illness and other vulnerabilities. However, the evidence around how such services support those with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDs) is limited.
This study aimed to evaluate, through the lens of court and clinical staff, the introduction of a L&D service for defendants with NDs, designed to complement the existing L&D service.
A realist evaluation was undertaken involving multiple agencies based within an inner-city Magistrates’ Court in London, England. We developed a logic model based on the initial programme theory focusing on component parts of the new enhanced service, specifically training, screening, signposting and interventions. We conducted semi-structured interviews with the court staff, judiciary and clinicians from the L&D service.
The L&D service for defendants with NDs was successful in identifying and supporting the needs of those defendants. Benefits of this service included knowledge sharing, awareness raising and promoting good practice such as making reasonable adjustments. However, there were challenges for the court practitioners and clinicians in finding and accessing local specialist community services.
A L&D service developed for defendants with NDs is feasible and beneficial to staff and clinicians who worked in the court setting leading to good practice being in place for the defendants. Going forward, a local care pathway would need to be agreed between commissioners and stakeholders including the judiciary to ensure timely and equitable access to local services by both defendants and practitioners working across diversion services for individuals with NDs.