England’s first mental health courts were officially launched by Justice Secretary Jack Straw this month.
Two pilot mental health courts have been operating since January at magistrates’ courts in Brighton and Stratford, London.
The courts aim to ensure a defendant’s mental health or learning disability is given appropriate multi-agency consideration before sentencing.
The specialist courts are more extensive than existing pre-sentence psychiatric reports, says the government.
A mental health nurse, who screens defendants for mental health problems, is responsible for co-ordinating pre-sentence multi-agency reports.
It is hoped the courts will lead to offenders being provided with better mental health care, as well as reduce offending.
In April Lord Bradley published a review of mental health services across the criminal justice system.
The mental health courts are each expected to deal with 350 cases per year.