Defendants with mental health issues ‘neglected’

Legal Gavelsource: The Guardian
published: 27 November 2017

Specialist prosecutors should review all decisions to charge suspects with mental health vulnerabilities and the defence of insanity should be amended, a law reform charity has said.

Defendants with learning disabilities and mental illness are repeatedly being failed by the criminal justice system in England and Wales, the report by Justice claims.

About a quarter of adults are diagnosed with a mental illness during their lifetime, and the proportion caught up in the criminal justice system is even higher. They need to be more clearly identified and supported, the study argues.

If problems are not addressed, the fair trial rights of many defendants may be undermined, Justice says. The report says mental health experts, not police officers, should identify people with mental ill-health or learning disabilities.

Among other recommendations, the report says specialist prosecutors should be appointed for each Crown Prosecution Service area to make charging decisions in such vulnerable cases.

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