More than a fifth of the 150,000 offenders currently on probation have mental health problems and are likely to pose a serious risk to themselves or to others, according to a new study.

More than a fifth of the 150,000 offenders currently on probation have mental health problems and are likely to pose a serious risk to themselves or to others, according to a new study.

The report by Napo, the trade union for probation staff, paints a terrifying picture of mentally ill people being dealt with by the criminal justice system rather than receiving specialist treatment.

The Independent on Sunday has been campaigning for more than a year for the Government to provide better treatment for people suffering from mental health problems.

Harry Fletcher, Napo's assistant general secretary, said the number of offenders on probation with serious mental health problems had increased over the past decade. He called for staff to receive mental health training. "These people should be in psychiatric hospitals or the subject of hospital orders or more intensively supported in the community," he said.

Probation officers reported that a quarter of people on their caseload had a mental disorder and one in five posed a high or medium risk of self-harm, including suicide, or harm to the public.

However, one third of probation staff interviewed said they had received no formal mental health training.

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