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Homicides Where Mental Illness is Present Increasing

While some may claim that assumed mental illness in the event of a violent act is judging too quickly, new figures show this is happening more and more often. In fact, according to an annual report by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, the number of people killed by individuals suffering from mental illness in England and Wales increased between 1997 and 2005.

A Science Daily release covered this report, sharing specific findings such as a fall in suicide by mental health patients overall and a continued descrease in suicide by in-patients; suicide following escape from the ward is an ongoing problem; and few serious incidents occurred when patients escaped from secure units.

The report highlighted the increase in the number of homicides committed by people with mental illness from 54 in 1997 to more than 70 in 2004 and 2005. A rise in homicides committed by people with schizophrenia was also found from 25 in 1997 to 46 in 2004 and 40 in 2005.

Professor Louis Appleby, Director of the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, said in Science Daily: "There has been an unexplained rise in the number of homicides by people with mental illness and we now have to try to understand why this has happened.

"It is important to emphasize that the increase has not occurred in mental health patients. It is also important to keep these findings in perspective. The risk of being a victim of homicide in England and Wales is around 1 in 1,000 and the risk of being killed by someone with schizophrenia is around 1 in 20,000."

The number of patients falling victim to suicide has decreased to its lowest level since data started to be collected in 1997. In 2006, there were 185 fewer deaths than in 2005. The number of in-patient suicides has fallen from a high of 219 in 1997 to 141 in 2006.

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