Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

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Volume 6 Issue 3 (September 1996), Pages 199-296

Psychiatric disorder and policing the elderly offender (pages 241-252)


Information relating to elderly offenders' mental state is necessary if the English Home Office statement that cautioning is suitable for all age‐groups is to be safely implemented by the police. This paper reports on the prevalence of mental disorder in a sample of 50 alleged offenders over the age of 60, and reports on the reasons given for the police action (i.e. taking no further action, cautioning or prosecution). Subjects were interviewed using the Geriatric Mental State (A) 3rd edition (GMSA3). Previous offending history and the stated reasons for the mode of disposal were obtained from the police. One hundred and fifty three individuals were identified and a sample of 50 were interviewed. Ninety‐seven of the 153 offences (63%) involved shoplifting. Fourteen (28%) of all those interviewed were identified as cases by Automated Geriatric Examination for Computer Assisted Taxonomy (AGECAT). Amongst shoplifters, 38% were identified as cases, with nine out of the 11 cases belonging to AGECAT organic and depressive syndrome groups. No association between first onset offending in late life (age 60 or over) and mental disorder was identified. ‘No further action’ was associated with denial of intent and unclear or unreliable admission of the offence. Cautions were associated with police perceptions of attitude to offence and having a ‘clean record’. The police referred only half of the people later identified as psychiatric cases to welfare agencies (the Social Services being used infrequently). They were unlikely to refer on non‐psychiatric cases (19%). Close cooperation between health care agencies and the police is required to ensure that offences that may be related to mental disorder in the elderly do not go unnoticed. Copyright © 1996 Whurr Publishers Ltd.

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