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Bullying behaviours among mentally disordered offenders in a medium secure unit

Baldeesh Gakhal (Specialist Forensic Psychologist, based at HMP Belmarsh and Bracton Centre, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK)
Sharon Oddie (Chartered Forensic Psychologist, based at Wathwood Hospital RSU, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Rotherham, UK)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Article publication date: 6 May 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature and prevalence of bullying behaviours and victimisation experiences among mentally disordered offenders within a medium secure unit (MSU).


In all, 35 adult male patients completed the Direct and Indirect Patient behaviour Checklist-Hospital Version (DIPC-H).


Indirect aggression was reported more frequently than direct aggression, although there was no statistically significant difference between the prevalence estimates. The most prevalent DIPC-H categories were the pure victim and not involved categories followed by bully/victim and pure bully. Membership of the pure bully category was predicted by being on a particular ward.

Research limitations/implications

Given that the study was a preliminary investigation into the nature and prevalence of bullying behaviours in a MSU, the sample size is limited. Consequently, it is difficult to generalise the findings. It would be useful for future research to focus on differences between levels of security using larger sample sizes to enable a greater understanding of the prevalence of bullying in secure settings and associated factors.

Practical implications

Further evidence is provided by the current research that indirect bullying and victimisation behaviours are reported more frequently by patients. The importance of anti-bullying procedures and interventions in secure settings is emphasised and recommendations that can be applied across various forensic settings are described. Better-informed interventions can then be implemented with the aim to manage bullying behaviours in secure settings. The one “pure bully” in the current study was on a rehabilitation ward. This highlights that such behaviours occur on lesser secure wards and serves as an important reminder to ensure that staff do not become complacent.


As there is only one published study to date that has focused on bullying behaviours in a MSU, the current study will contribute to the dearth of literature in this area and assist professionals working in secure settings to better understand the nature and prevalence of bullying behaviours among mentally disordered offenders.



Gakhal, B. and Oddie, S. (2014), "Bullying behaviours among mentally disordered offenders in a medium secure unit", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 156-165.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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