Court Divert Project

Shelley’s Story

Shelley was referred to Elmore’s Court Divert worker when she was arrested for Threatening and Abusive behaviour after staff at the Horton Hospital in Banbury refused to give her painkillers. She was well known to the hospital as a former morphine addict.

In the cells, Shelley had refused legal counsel. She agreed to meet with the worker and they developed a plan to make sure that she could get her medication and would be able to get home. After being granted bail Elmore met with Shelley in the cells; she was threatening suicide and behaving aggressively towards custody staff. At this point the Court Divert worker contacted the public protection officer to check her risk; upon finding out that Shelley had an assault on her record they decided to proceed with caution.

By that point Shelley was causing a disturbance at the front of the Magistrates Court. Her behaviour was clearly irrational and contradictory – first demanding to be released and then refusing to leave. Her behaviour seemed to the worker to indicate borderline personality disorder. The worker approached Shelley and she began to calm down. Sitting on the kerb they talked about what was happening for her; Shelley confided that she does not currently have access to her children, who are in her ex-partner’s care. She said that she been to the Banbury Complex Needs Service but described them as “useless”. She gets on well with her GP and is waiting for one to one counselling, but had no other support.

There were several concerns at this point. Shelley was still sitting outside the court refusing to leave, and had caused several disturbances that day; the front door for the court has to be closed for some time. However, once she was sitting on the kerb she calmed, and staff were able to resume business as usual.

Secondly, she had repeatedly made suicide threats. Though she did calm down, this was still a concern, and even though it was likely that this was not unusual for her, Elmore had been told that she did have a history of actual suicide attempts. So, after Shelley left, the worker phoned the police and reported the risk and gave her address so that they could do a welfare check later on.

Thirdly, this vulnerable young woman did not seem to have any support other than her GP. She was repeatedly causing disturbances at NHS premises, and she also told Elmore that she kept stopping and starting her medication, and regularly self-harms. She had refused legal representation and was going what was probably an unnecessary trial, the incident was all on CCTV and she is likely to be found guilty – a solicitor would probably have advised her to plead guilty. To make sure that she would get on-going support, the worker offered to refer her to Elmore. Shelley was not sure at first but took a leaflet. She phoned Elmore the following week, and later made a self-referral; it was a major step for her to admit that she needed help.

Beth’s Story

Beth is a vulnerable young women in her early twenties. As a child she was kept in a wheelchair by her mother despite having no real physical disability; this has left her with a muscle wasting disease. She was also sexually abused by her father. She was taken into care at the age of 16. She now has Borderline Personality Disorder and depression as a result of her childhood experiences.

Beth came into contact with the Court Divert project when she was in court for several charges of theft and for obstructing traffic. She had walked down the middle of a dual carriageway hoping to get run over. She was on remand for seven weeks, and during this time she stopped using heroin and became stable on a methadone script.
Beth was assessed by a psychiatrist in prison, so there was information available to the court about her mental health needs.

As a result of this, at trial she was given a 12 month supervision order and was released on the informal understanding that she would be offered hospital inpatient treatment at the Warneford, as agreed by the psychiatrist who had seen her in prison. However, when she was released she found that there we no beds in the Warneford.

Elmore tried every possible avenue to find her accommodation to tide her over until a bed became available. The Court Divert worker supported her to put a homeless application into Oxford City Council but they were unable to help. There is no longer any direct access to the city’s homeless hostels, and it seemed that Beth’s only option was to sleep on the streets so that she could be verified by the No Second Night Out service, or to go to Accident and Emergency if she was unwell.

Beth had no money, no support, and nowhere to go. She was street homeless for several days before getting a bed in the Warneford. Elmore supported Beth to see a solicitor who started the process of requesting a Judicial Review of the council’s decision, though this is now on hold whilst she is in hospital. It is likely to be a short stay there, and there is still no clear way forward in getting her accommodation, however, Beth has now been referred to Elmore’s Complex Needs Team so will be receiving on—going support to help her address her needs.

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Elmore Community Services (ECS) is a registered charity governed by a Board of Directors. It provides high quality services for marginalised and disenfranchised people throughout Oxfordshire. Elmore was established in 1989 after an Oxford research project identified the weaknesses of service provision for people deemed ‘difficult to place’.

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