Phone: +64 6 8355521 | Email: sstcoord@sst.org.nz

Mental Health Review

Current Situation

8.7% of all murders in New Zealand are perpetrated by offenders with a serious mental illness.
Conservatively 25% of the prison population have serious or undiagnosed serious mental illness. The prevalence of mental illness in prison is greater than in the community. (Reference: Howard League Fact Sheet 11)

There are not enough medium to long term mental health beds available for the number of mentally ill patients in New Zealand.

Ring fenced money set aside for seriously ill patients is being opened up. (Reference: ODT Saturday June 30).

There was a 300% increase in ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ verdicts between 2000 and 2010, rising from 4 to 13. Offenders who use the ‘insanity’ defence do not end up with convictions for the offences committed.

There is no accountability for psychiatrists who release patients who then go on to kill.

Ministry of Health do not maintain a database of names of special patients. (Reference: OIA Request)

Police refuse to say how many incidents they attend where the offender has mental health issues because the say they do not log that information. (Reference: OIA Request)

More than 50% of ‘deaths in police custody’ cases, reviewed by the Authority, involved people affected by mental health concerns. Mental health is a highly significant risk factor in respect of the management of detainees, particularly in relation to suicide and the use of force or restraint. Four of the seven people who died after being restrained by police suffered from schizophrenia, and at least 70% of the suicides in custody involved people who had experienced significant mental health issues. (Reference: IPCA Report 30 June 2012)

Changes SST would like to see:

  1. An increase in the number of designated psychiatric hospitals so that mentally ill offenders can be securely accommodated in appropriate facilities.
  2. Reform of the insanity defence – change the ‘Insanity’ plea to ‘Proven but Insane’ plea.
  3. All offenders who use the insanity defence are charged with the offence/s and have their cases considered by a Judge or Jury.
  4. The penalty and placement of offenders found ‘proven but insane’ is decided at the point of sentencing.
  5.  If an offender is found ‘Proven but Insane’ and a custodial sentences is appropriate for the offence the offender is confined in a secure designated psychiatric hospital for the duration of the sentence If the offender is deemed mentally fit before the end of the sentence then the offender completes that sentence in a prison.