Aims: Persons with severe mental illness (SMI) are at increased risk of criminal offending, particularly violent offending, as compared with the general population. Most offenders with SMI acquire convictions prior to contact with mental health services. This study examined offending among 301 individuals experiencing their first episode of psychosis.
Methods: Patients provided information on sociodemographic and clinical variables and completed a neurological soft sign examination and neuropsychological tests. Additional information was extracted from clinical files and official criminal records.
Results: The results show that 33.9% of the men and 10.0% of the women had a record of criminal convictions, and 19.9% of the men and 4.6% of the women had been convicted of at least one violent crime. Proportionately more male and female patients than men and women in the general UK population had prior convictions for violent crimes. In a multivariate model including background and clinical variables, only one variable distinguished the male offenders. African-Caribbean ethnicity was associated with a threefold increase in the odds of offending (odds ratio = 3.84, 95% confidence interval 1.03–14.37). Offenders, as compared with non-offenders, obtained significantly lower premorbid and current intelligence quotient scores and similar scores on tests of neurological soft signs, working memory and executive functions.
Conclusions: At contact with mental health services for a first episode of psychosis, significant numbers of patients have records of criminal convictions and thereby a high risk for future violent behaviour. These patients require specific interventions, in addition to medication, to reduce offending and aggressive behaviour.