Lord Chief calls for greater ‘sensitivity’ on mental health

The Lord Chief Justice highlighted the ‘disproportionate’ number of people with mental health issues in the criminal justice system and called for more action to ensure they are treated fairly.

Speaking at the launch of the Mental Health and Fair Trial report into mental health and the criminal justice system, published by Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon said it was important to put in place systems that ‘respond appropriately to the needs of such people’.

He cited Ministry of Justice figures from 2015 showing the ‘striking ‘ incidence of vulnerable people within the criminal justice system – 29% of individuals who are detained in police custody have some form of mental health condition; more than 25% of individuals resident i in approved premises, previously known as bail hostels, were diagnosed with a psychiatric condition; around 39% of those serving community sentences had a mental health condition; and over 90% of the prison population has at least one psychiatric condition.

‘These figures demonstrate that all professionals in the criminal justice system must be sensitive to the needs of such vulnerable individuals to ensure equality before the law, proper access to justice and a fair trial, all fundamental aspects of the rule of law.

‘That sensitivity will include an understanding of the particular problems faced by those with mental illness, neurological impairment or similar problems,’ said the LCJ.

The issue, he said, has been ‘of concern for many years’ and while changes and improvements have been made, it needs to be kept under review.

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