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Forensic referrals to the three specialist psychiatric units for deaf people in the UK

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This paper presents the results from a national study of forensic referrals to the UK's three specialist psychiatric services for deaf people who are users of sign language. A search of 5,034 referrals identified 431 relevant cases. From these, data were collected on patient characteristics, offending behaviour, court disposal and diagnosis. In addition, data were used to estimate the need for a specialist forensic deaf service in the UK. The results show a steady and continuing rise in forensic referrals from the mid-1980s. They contradict previously held assumptions about the late age of first conviction and about the reluctance of the courts to impose probation supervision on deaf people. They confirm and expand our understanding of the high proportion of sexual and violent offences in this clinical population. Nearly 50% of the sample were found on assessment not to be suffering from a mental disorder - a category that excludes patients diagnosed with personality disorder. Figures from the past 30 years and from the past 5 years only are consistent in demonstrating that around 60% of this group would have benefited from a specialist forensic deaf service at some time in the assessment/treatment process.
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Keywords: DEAFNESS; MENTALLY DISORDERED OFFENDERS; SIGN LANGUAGE

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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