New research brings clearer understanding of people found Not Criminally Responsible
Not criminally responsible is a phrase that conjures up fears fuelled by vast media coverage of high-profile cases in which individuals with severe mental illness have committed violent offences. Yet these cases are rare occurrences; they are exceptions to the norm within the NCR system. As a long-term study which examines the actions and experiences of individuals declared not criminally responsible has found, the truth is much less sensational.
Dr. Anne Crocker, from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry of McGill University is the lead researcher on a large pan-Canadian longitudinal study on individuals found Not Criminally Responsible (NCR), in order to dispel misconceptions and provide a clearer understanding of this group of people along with her colleagues Dr Michael Seto, Director of Forensic rehabilitation research at the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group and Dr Tonia Nicholls, senior Research fellow at the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission and Associate professor at the department of psychiatry of UBC.
1,800 people followed
Their study, called the National Trajectory Project of Individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder in Canada, followed 1,800 people who were found NCR in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia, to determine a general profile and observe how they behave.
Dr Crocker says it is important to get a clear picture of who the NCR population is and their general behavior and pathways through the civil, justice and forensic systems. What we see and hear in the media may not always be an accurate representation of the full population. It is also important because this population has grown tremendously over the past 20 years and are taking up a larger proportion of our psychiatric facilities today and we need to adjust the organisation of services around specific needs of these individuals. This population has also attracted the attention of legal scholars and policy makers over the past few years, often through sensationalised cases.
The study found that the recidivism rate among people found NCR, including all types of offences, is about 17 percent. “The recidivism rate of people found NCR is generally lower than reoffending rates among people who are convicted under the criminal justice system,” says Dr. Crocker.
The study also found that serious violent offences make up only a small proportion of the offences that lead individuals into the NCR system. Seven percent of individuals found NCR had homicide or attempted murder as their index offence – the offence for which they were found NCR –and the study shows that these individuals have a low likelihood of re-offending.
The study also indicates that three out of four individuals who were found NCR were known from the general mental health system. This means that we also have an opportunity for risk management and education on the prevention of criminality within the general mental health care.
Major findings from The National Trajectory Project were published as a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry in March 2015.
Editorials and original research articles:
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry Vol 60, No 3, March 2015 mars