Objective: To describe the characteristics of offenders found not guilty on the grounds of mental illness (NGMI) in New South Wales and rates of NGMI and other homicide verdicts. Method: Demographic, legal and clinical data after referral to the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal following an NGMI verdict for homicide matched with results from the National Homicide Monitoring Program. Results: Between 1993 and 2016, a total of 2159 homicide offenders were dealt with by the NSW courts, including 169 (7.8%) who were found NGMI. Over this period, the rate of non-NGMI homicide convictions fell from 1.83 per 100,000 per annum to 0.65 per 100,000 per annum (Kendall’s tau = −0.79, p ⩽ 0.001) while the rate of NGMI homicide fluctuated, with an average annual rate of about 0.1 per 100,000 per annum (Kendall’s tau = 0.17, p = 0.23). There was no association between the annual rates of NGMI and non-NGMI homicides (Pearson r = −0.3, p = 0.16) but falling rate of non-NGMI homicide meant that the proportion of NGMI offences doubled from 5.5% in the first 12 years to 11% in the second 12 years. Nearly all (88.7%) of those found NGMI had a schizophrenia-related psychosis. However, there were high rates of psychiatric comorbidity including substance use disorder (60.7%) and a history of a prior head injury (41.1%). Most (83.4%) of the NGMI offenders had previous contact with mental health services, but only half of these had received treatment with antipsychotic medication. Conclusion: The fall in conviction for homicide offences in the last 24 years has not been matched by a reduction in NGMI homicide verdicts. More assertive treatment of emerging psychosis and comorbid substance use disorders, and improved continuity of care of chronic psychosis might prevent some homicides.
- New South Wales
- not guilty due to mental illness