Evidence for a relationship between the duration of untreated psychosis and the proportion of psychotic homicides prior to treatment
OBJECTIVE Few studies have described rates of schizophrenia in a national sample of homicide perpetrators. This study aimed to describe this group's social and clinical characteristics, mental state features, offense details, and outcome in court. METHOD Analyses used a national clinical survey that collected data on people convicted of homicide in England and Wales (1996-1999). Data were collected for those with schizophrenia or other delusional disorders from psychiatric reports and questionnaires. RESULTS Of the 1,594 people convicted of homicide, 85 (5 percent) had schizophrenia. Of the 57 people with schizophrenia for whom data were available, 32 (56 percent) had been ill for less than 12 months, and in the month before the offense, 32 (56 percent) had shown a change in the quality, intensity, or conviction of or emotional response to their delusional beliefs. Twenty-four (28 percent) had no previous contact with psychiatric services. CONCLUSIONS Regular assessment of delusions may help to detect an increased risk of violence, including homicide. More intensive care should be available for patients with a history of schizophrenia and previous violence.