Estimates suggest that as much as 40% of police demand has some level of mental health component

Time2Listen: innovative mental health practice in Northamptonshire

Posted on 16 Jul in

Paul Bullen and Helen Cook

It is often stated that people with mental illness are much more likely to come into contact with the police and wider criminal justice system than the general population. Estimates suggest that as much as 40% of police demand has some level of mental health component and 90% of people in prison will have some level of mental illness. But responding to mental health issues is often still seen as ‘not their job’ for those within the criminal justice system.

In Northamptonshire we have sought to do something about this undertaking Time 2 Listen, which involved consulting more than 1,200 people who have either a mental illness, autism or ADHD to understand their experiences of the CJS. In addition, we spoke to more than 260 professionals working in health, policing, criminal justice and the voluntary sector to understand their experiences and identify barriers to effective and good practice.

The full report is available at here. The findings include:

  • Many of the issues that impact across criminal justice relate to a lack of preventative services between primary and secondary care. We need services that better refer, support and divert people at an earlier stage so that they do not end up in need of, or in the criminal justice system.
  • There should be a greater consistency of approach across all service providers so that people know what to expect and that services are of uniformly high quality.
  • Development of a shared vision across the criminal justice and health systems, with joint commissioning of services such out-of-hours support
  • There are dedicated and committed professionals who are delivering excellent services, but often frontline staff are not appropriately trained. Locally we found 52% of frontline professionals felt they had not received sufficient training, this rose to 73% for the police. Therefore, currently professionals cannot fully understand the diverse needs of these individuals or tailor their approach accordingly.

The 34 recommendations in the report have both local and national implications. We have in place boards locally to deliver against the recommendations and are looking to work with colleagues nationally to influence change where it is required to better join up our system for those most in need.

For further information please contact Paul Bullen at

Paul Bullen is the Director for Delivery in the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in Northamptonshire. He has over a decade’s experience within policing and across the wider criminal justice system. Paul has led on subjects as varied as reducing reoffending, delivering services for victim of crime, putting in place interventions to reduce the impact of substance misuse and mental health on the CJS, and leading for the PCC on the change of governance for fire and rescue.

Helen Cook is Head of Involvement & Impact and led the consultation with service users, professionals and report development on time 2 listen. Helen has over 15 years’ experience working in and around the criminal justice system and has delivered many significant pieces of consultation across Northamptonshire, particularly with young people and those most vulnerable, including on topics such as; online safety, healthy relationships, giving Victim’s a Voice, amongst others. Helen seeks to ensure that all engagement activity remain focussed on implementing changes to practices that result in improved outcomes for the public