The prevalence of people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities within our criminal justice system is a longstanding concern. Through overrepresented in police custody and prison, these individuals are not always identified, nor is the system designed with them in mind. From first contact with the police through to disposal, there remain fundamental problems with our response to mental health. If these are not addressed, the fair trial rights of many defendants will be undermined.
Vulnerable people must be properly identified an given such support and reasonable adjustments as will enable effective participation in their defence, or if appropriate, not be prosecuted. Those diverted from prosecution or prison should receive suitable and effective treatment to ensure that they remain outside of the criminal justice system.
To what extent does the law have to take into account a person’s mental capacity, mental health and mental development when determining the legal consequences of their actions; and to what extent should the system accommodate their ability to participate effectively and fairly in it’s procedures?
The overriding principle is that both the law and its procedures should be designed to ensure that those who have any vulnerability by reason of their mental health or capacity do not suffer discrimination, unfair criminalisation or unfair punishment, so far as possible within the limits of ensuring public safety.
At SMQ Legal we aim to support our vulnerable clients from their initial contact with Police all the way through to trial if necessary. We are a local solicitors firm and offer free 20 minute appointments for initial enquiries. Please contact us if you need us.
By Brid Eve