Warning on mentally ill held in jails

Limited bed space in the State's only high-security unit for the mentally ill is forcing vulnerable prisoners to be kept in jails instead of centres that can address their needs, the WA Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board chief has warned.

Robert Cock praised the State Government's decision to build two declared places for people who cannot stand trial but said the disability justice centres would cater only for cognitively impaired accused - about half the number of people the board managed.

"It would be disastrous for the mentally ill accused to be forgotten," Mr Cock, the board's chairman, said.

"Although they are sometimes able to be accommodated at the Frankland Centre, that facility is small, limited to 30 patients at any one time and not only mentally ill accused are housed there.

"Many mentally ill accused are detained in the State's prisons, like the cognitively impaired, and both would be better placed in an appropriate facility where their special needs can be accommodated, away from the main prison population where both groups are particularly vulnerable."

Mr Cock made the comments in the board's 2012-13 annual report.

It revealed that of the 37 mentally impaired accused who were managed by the board, 46 per cent were in prison, eight were in an authorised hospital - either Graylands Hospital or the Frankland Centre - and another eight were in the community.

About 11 per cent are interstate. The report said there were 10 mentally impaired accused on conditional release orders. Of the 37, 32 were men and one-third Aboriginal, the report showed.

Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said increasing beds in high-security facilities was a priority for the Government and a 10-year mental health services plan was being developed.

Shadow mental health minister Stephen Dawson said Mr Cock's comments should be a wake-up call to the Government.