Spruin, Elizabeth (2012) The Criminal Experience of Mentally Disordered Offenders. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Mentally Disordered Offenders (MDOs) are a distinct population of offenders. In contrast to offenders serving prisons sentences, MDOs are diverted from the Criminal Justice System to services where their mental health needs can be adequately addressed. Despite the distinct management and treatment of these offenders, to date, there has been no research into the personal narratives and emotions that are connected to how MDOs understand their criminal actions. Narratives can be seen as cognitive structures that dynamically filter and order experience in ways that reflect their content. Emotions of criminals are often what propel an offender’s thoughts into actions, which subsequently provides the internal motives for the crime and the emotional gratifications which sustain a criminal lifestyle. To that end, this thesis explores the personal narratives and emotions of MDOs, exploring these concepts will subsequently lead to a greater understanding of the unique thought processes and emotions of the criminal experience, and of how these factors vary across crimes and offenders.

Seventy adult male offenders who have been convicted of an offence and were currently sectioned under the Mental Health Act 2007 or recently been released to a housing association, were recruited for the study. The investigation was carried out in three stages. The first stage explored the criminal narratives of the offenders and the association these narratives had with psychiatric diagnoses and offence types. The second stage examined the emotional experience of committing an offence and the relationship these emotions had with psychiatric diagnoses and offence types. The final stage proposed an emotional narrative framework for MDOs; this framework encompassed the psychiatric diagnosis, emotions and narratives which present themselves during the commission of an offence. This framework explored all these variables across offence types and suggested that specific roles, emotions and diagnoses were related to particular offences. The five studies conducted concurrently through these three stages are discussed in the context of theoretical and therapeutic development, and contribution to the investigative discipline. In summary, the findings of this thesis expand on the current literature by uniquely examining the roles and emotions that MDOs experience during the commission of their crimes. These findings also highlight areas for future research.

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