JUSTICE states 'Suspects and defendants with mental ill health or learning disabilities need to be better identified and supported, in order to ensure their right to a fair trial in England, argues a JUSTICE report published on 27 November 2017. Around one in four adults in the UK are diagnosed with a mental illness during their lifetime and many more will experience changes in their mental well-being. Three quarters of people with mental health problems receive no support at all. The available evidence suggests that people in the criminal justice system are far more likely to suffer from mental health problems than the general population. Mental Health and Fair Trial, the result of JUSTICE working party which started work in September 2016, argues that from first contact with the police through to sentence, there remain fundamental problems with the English justice system's response to mental health. Left unaddressed the fair trial rights of many defendants may be undermined.
This report is a significant, powerful and influential addition to the growing demands for radical changes to the provision of intermediary support for vulnerable people in the criminal justice system. The report is produced by a working party, chaired by Sir David Latham, former Lord Justice of Appeal and Chairman of the Parole Board for England and Wales. IfJ made important contributions with Jan Jones serving on the working party whilst Catherine O'Neill, Nicola Lewis, Liz Prosser and Paula Backen contributed to its research and discussions. The report makes a number of wide ranging recommendations including specific ones about the use of intermediaries. IfJ suggests the following are the most relevant:
- that intermediaries for defendants should be provided by the MoJ RI scheme
- that a regulatory body with training obligations should be established
- that intermediaries should be embedded in courts through a duty scheme
- that the need for intermediaries during police custody or voluntary interview must be better identified by L&D, support assistants and legal representatives.
- that intermediary involvement should take place from the suspect interview stage
These recommendations both support and extend the recommendations in 'Voice for the Voiceless' and would impact intermediaries, all those who work in the wider criminal system and vulnerable people and their supporters. IfJ is keenly concerned that defendants have equal access to justice. The recommendations about the need for and value of intermediaries are echoed in both the Victims' Commissioners report and Justice's Mental Health and Fair Trial report. Let's hope this is a year of change with the increased understanding of our work with all vulnerable people.
Read the full report here.
Follow this link to the Victims' Commissioner's report 'A Voice for the Voiceless.'